HARTFORD - Fingers racing up and down the necks of guitars and fiddles may join cars racing around the track at Sharon Speedway.
The Charlie Daniels Band played the venue Wednesday in what owners hope will be the first of future concerts featuring local and national acts.
Dave Willoughby, general manager at the Speedway, said township trustees gave owners approval for up to two concerts a year featuring national artists and an unlimited number of shows featuring local acts.
Country singer Charlie Daniels, right, autographs the jacket of Ron Kirila of Brookfield before the start of the show Wednesday evening at Sharon Speedway.
By R. Michael Semple
"We want to get through this one and then do bigger and better things down the road," Willoughby said. "We want to get people familiar with Sharon Speedway, where it is and what we're about.
"Obviously, it's a race track. We want to promote people coming out to the races on Saturday night, but we also want to offer something else."
Organizers were hoping for 1,500 to 2,000 for Wednesday. Attendance didn't meet that goal on a clear but cool night, but Willoughby said they had less than two months to put together and promote the show.
Several of those in attendance said they hoped to see more shows there.
"That would be great," said John Gearhart of Greenville, Pa. "It beats going to Cleveland or Pittsburgh."
Bonnie Hamrick of Leavittsburg said she regularly comes to Sharon Speedway for the races and likes how close it is. She came with her friend, Cheryl Vance of Brookfield, who said this was her first concert. She just retired after 20 years as a truck driver, and her schedule didn't allow her to get out much.
"That's one thing off the bucket list I got," Vance said.
Charity Reisinger brought her mother, Val Powell of Masury, as a surprise.
"She used to sing it (Daniels' music) to us all the time on long road trips," Reisinger said. "I like his music. It just relaxes me and takes me away to a special place. It reminds me of my childhood."
They were at the venue by 5 p.m. in order to get right up front.
"I told my mom we gotta get there early because people are going to be standing in line," Reisinger said.
Also in the front was Nick Mariotti of Mercer, Pa., who said Wednesday's show was his eighth Charlie Daniels Band concert, dating back to a 1978 show at the now-demolished Front Row Theatre in Highland Heights.
"I just like his music," Mariotti said. "I've been listening to it for, what, 40 years now. He puts on a good show for an old man."
Daniels and his five-piece band came on stage just after 9 p.m., opening with "Redneck Fiddlin' Man."
Wearing a shirt as white as his beard, his trademark white hat and a belt with a silver buckle that was larger than a saucer, Daniels said, "I do believe it's party time in the Buckeye state. Are you ready to have some fun?"
Mariotti said before the show he was hoping to hear "The Legend of Wooly Swamp." He got his wish - it was the third song played.
At age 21, Nicolle Wayner of Kinsman was one of the younger fans up front. She likes CDB, but she was there to see opening act, The Fillbillys, one of the favorite bands of her boyfriend, Dave Hartman.
Jimmi Migliozzi, lead singer of the Fillbillys said, "It's a legendary opportunity to play with a legend."
"We're definitely stoked," bass player Garry Palcisco added.
The Fillbillys also are opening for David Allen Coe at McMenamy's in Niles on Friday, and the opportunity to play with these national acts is encouraging the band to mix some originals songs with the rockin' covers that normally fill the Fillbillys' set.