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Local country music fans attend first ‘big’ concert since start of pandemic at indoor Oshkosh arena

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For Bryton Rodriguez, sitting down at a restaurant during the pandemic felt odd at first.

Now, as he waits in line to enter an arena with over 1,000 other concert-goers, Rodriguez says he might feel even weirder.

“[Covid] Mandates are all going down and we can finally go out and do stuff,” Rodriguez, a Fond du Lac resident and Stem Academy senior, said. “[I’M] surprising my girlfriend with a concert tonight.”

The Menominee Nation Arena hosted its first indoor concert in over a year with country music’s Eli Young Band. Local media was not allowed inside for the concert, but fans like Rodriguez saw live music at a large venue for the first time since last March.

“I don’t know that it’s the first in the state, but it’s definitely the first big concert we’ve held since Covid started,” Special Events Manager Carolynn Fields said.

The seating capacity was limited, but concert goers like Rodriguez say they were still a little bit nervous to be around so many people.

“On the way in, we were kind of contemplating wearing masks,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of them [attendees] in there don’t have masks, but [we] figured [we] might as well wear it to stay safe.”

But only 1,400 out of nearly 4,000 seats were made available. The arena says fans were required to wear masks. So others say they felt safe.

“Looking at the way the seating is set up and everything with every other row, you do have masks on the way in… I think people are gonna feel safe,” local country music radio host Randy “Shotgun” Shannon said.

And the concert didn’t sell out of tickets.

“I think people are still a little hesitant [to attend],” Y100 radio host Hannah Damas said. “It’s still the first show. It’s the first big show, so I think people are gonna look to see what happens here tonight and base their decision off that.”

Though it might feel different being at a nearly-packed concert again, Rodriguez says he hopes it’s the first of many in the coming months.

“For so long we were locked down and we couldn’t do anything, so we’re finally out and about seeing other people,” Rodriguez said. “And it’s just a nice change getting back to normal.”

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