Thousands of country music fans descended Sunday on Overlook Community Park in Manheim Township for a laid-back day of music, food, games and contests.
Held for the 27th year, the I-105 Turkey Hill Fallfest featured seven musical acts that performed on a stage stage set up at the far end of the Overlook Golf Course driving range, culminating with a set by Rodney Atkins.
Atkins, who is working on his first studio album in seven years, played some of his older hits including “Watching You” and “If You’re Going Through Hell,” while mixing in Led Zeppelin and Metallica songs. He ended with his new single, “Caught up in the Country,” during which he was joined on-stage by his wife and fellow performer Rose Falcon.
“It was a fun, 75-minute show,” said Rich Creeger, WIOV program director, who estimated around 15,000 people attended the event that finished around 6 p.m.
“We had one of our best shows ever. The lineup was fantastic, which brought a lot of people out, but the weather is the No. 1 thing that brought people out,” he said.
While high humidity, sunny skies and afternoon temperatures in the lower 80s made it feel more like a “summer” fest, Creeger said it was preferable to the freezing rain and cold of past years.
The music started at 11 a.m. and, throughout the day, the park was filled with people enjoying the performances, wandering around to food stands, throwing flying discs or footballs and entering various contests.
About two hours before Atkins took the stage, Kristina Ray was relaxing with friends and family in a lawn chair at the back of the crowd. She said her group of six had driven up from Annapolis, Maryland, to see Atkins.
“He’s our all-time favorite. He’s an amazing person. ... He’s so humble, just a very simple human being,” she said.
While she waited for Atkins to play, Ray enjoyed the festive atmosphere and a chance to relax in the sun.
“We thought, ‘(It’s a) big open field, and we’ll sit in the back and just enjoy it.’ That was our game plan, and I think we’re right where we wanted to be,” said Ray, just as her sister brought her a large cup of french fries, two kinds of dipping sauce and a bottle of water.
“This is really relaxing, I like this,” she said.
Farthest away from the stage was an area with bouncy castles — one equipped with a basketball court — and a mechanical bull ride. Next to that were rows of cornhole boards set up for the 64-team cornhole tournament that started around 9 a.m.
Teams paid $60 to enter the double-elimination tournament sponsored by the Keystone State Cornhole Association. After nearly five hours of play, the team of Mark Hartman, of Lititz, and Don Bletz, of Wellsville, emerged victorious, taking the $550 top prize.
Afterward Bletz said the key to winning is practicing a lot and learning to be a consistent player.
“If you’re consistent, it makes the other person try different stuff that they normally don’t do,” he said.