Miller Park has likely never seen as much flannel as it did Saturday night, when it played host to Farm Aid 25. I had the pleasure of witnessing the iconic event from the perch provided by a suite.
When my host and I arrived just after 5 p.m., a fedora-and-flannel clad Jason Mraz was on the stage. He introduced a song he had "written for the farmers," which was essentially an ode to his grandfather -- and to all men of a certain generation who have the skills to be self-sufficient in a world without wi-fi and AAA.
Mraz inserted into his set a plea to everyone in the audience to vote for environmentally conscious legislators in the upcoming, November election.
Just to the left of the stage, the names of "green" event donors scrolled on an LED screen: Goodness Greenness, Organic Valley, Horizon Organic and Natural Events of Manitowoc.
When Norah Jones took the stage around 6 p.m., she opened with her own "Come Away with Me," then went into the Johnny Cash country classic, "Cry, Cry, Cry."
Flanked on the stage by just two guitarists, Jones left her jazz inflection by the wayside for the night and opted for a decidedly steel-string guitar sound -- and red cowgirl boots. Willie Nelson joined Jones for "Lonestar."
During a set break, I took an amble through Miller Park and decided the scene was "Austin City Limits" meets "UW-Stevens Point." Composting collection bags took their place next to trash cans, and food and beverage kiosks displayed signs giving products the official Farm Aid, "Homegrown Approved" designation, where applicable.
Back in the suite, I caught Kenny Chesney onstage, who brought his version of urbanized country to the mix. Admittedly, I'm no Chesney expert, but the audience seemed to embrace his hits and welcomed him warmly, despite the fact that he was wearing a trucker-style Saints baseball hat. (None of his handlers secured a Packers or Brewers hat for him? Asleep at the wheel?)
The view from the suite afforded me the opportunity to reflect on the scope and magnitude of the event: people packed the place, the enormous boom cameras loomed above their heads, the baseball diamond sat empty like perfectly preserved homage to all-things American.
It struck me several times how cool it is that Milwaukee landed this major event -- thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of some key Milwaukee Brewers staffers. At the same time, "American Idol" producers and celebrity judges were in town for Milwaukee audition shots. Regardless of your personal tastes and opinions of these emblems of pop culture, you can't dispute the fact that Milwaukee is on the map more than ever.
Velia Tarnoff counts among the loves of her life her daughter, her husband, her friends, writing, developing theories, dancing, live music, Southern California, black coffee and red wine. She's happiest when she can put as many of those together as possible. WWith more than 20 years of experience as a radio reporter and public relations professional, Velia is a natural communicator who loves to hear stories, to share stories and to tell it like it is.
Velia earned her B.A. from the UW School of Journalism and is thankful for every moment she spent on that wonderfully wacky campus.
And, in the interest of full disclosure, Velia is the wife of OnMilwaukee.com Publisher Andy Tarnoff.