Beaver Stadium houses concert

Blake Shelton, other country music stars make history at Penn State

In many ways, it looked and felt like a Penn State football game — albeit on a smaller scale.

Happy Valley Jam, the first-ever concert at Beaver Stadium, created in part to provide an additional revenue stream for the university’s athletic department during the offseason, attracted about 30,000 people to the stadium Saturday.

Country music superstar Blake Shelton, who has appeared as a judge on “The Voice” since its debut in 2011, headlined the lineup that also included Chris Young, Big & Rich, David Ray and Adley Stump.

Stump kicked off the event at 4 p.m., becoming the first performer to ever take the stage at the historic stadium. Shelton, with 24 No. 1 hits, including this week’s “Every Time I Hear That Song,” took the stage at 9:30 p.m.

The combination of the stadium’s first concert and Shelton were the big pull for many.

“Oh, I’m a big Blake Shelton fan, and it’s even better that he’s at Beaver Stadium,” said Lori Bennett of Cresson.

A longtime football season ticket holder, she and her family set up their tailgate on the far edge of the paved lots west of Beaver Stadium when they arrived about 1:30 p.m. She expected a few more people in the parking lot, but was happy to have some elbow room.

Those lots were not nearly as full as they would be for a football game, but there was plenty of activity. In place of blue-and-white clothes, cowboy boots, halter-tops and plaid, as well as rompers and sundresses, were most common.

Tailgate games like beer pong and corn hole were complemented in at least one instance by some line dance practice. It was mostly a happy crowd enjoying the sunny, blue-sky day after an early shower. One small tailgate group even passed the time playing Scrabble.

Traffic to the stadium moved well, with backups entering lots as attendants worked to be efficient with spaces in the fields east of the stadium. Few, if any, tailgaters were parking in the same spots they would on a football game day, so that lack of familiarity slowed the process.

With 56 days until the season’s first Penn Sate game, most seemed pleased with the concert, no matter the size of the crowd.

“If you and the people you’re with are having a good time, that’s enough,” said Susan Rambeau, who traveled to Happy Valley Jam with Bennett and her family.

Inside the stadium, beer was sold for the first time. It cost $8. Lines were long but moved well.

One familiar site at the stadium was gone, as the goalposts on both ends were removed for the first time in decades to accommodate the stage and the load-in process for the staging and seating on the field.

Event organizers declared Happy Valley Jam a success even before it started.

Deputy athletic director Phil Esten and Basis president and CEO Gary DeWaard said ticket sales were the key. They also cited the response and support of the community and Penn State fans. Tickets were sold to people in 43 states and Canada. Whether that sets the stage for an annual event has not been announced, but barring any out-of-scale alcohol problems or some other unforeseen circumstance, it seems likely.

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