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Barbecue, drinks and games, before the Chesney-McGraw concert

TAMPA — Kristy Moist prayed for good neighbors in the Raymond James Stadium parking lot on Saturday.

She had arrived at 10:30 a.m. with three others to tailgate before the launch of the Brothers of the Sun tour featuring Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw. And she got lucky.

"We ended up with Kenny Chesney," said Moist, 36, a credit union employee from Orlando.

The look-alike parked two cars down from Moist and her party.

"He's taken pictures with hundreds of people," she laughed as she displayed a cellphone photo of herself and a familiar-looking man in a cowboy hat.

Tents, pickup trucks, grills, cornhole games and coolers dotted every aisle of the parking lot Saturday afternoon. The lots surrounding the football stadium opened at 10 a.m. and one minute later, the tailgating was on.

Not far away from Moist's tent, Rickey and Diana Williams were downing a few beers as they prepared themselves to see Chesney for the first time in 15 years.

"The last time we saw him was in a college gymnasium in Las Cruces, N.M.," said Rickey Williams, 50, a registered nurse from Hudson. The couple moved to the Tampa Bay area one year ago from El Paso, Texas, and didn't bring a lot of friends to tailgate.

That didn't stop them from joining the party at the next car over to play cornhole, drink and talk about the finer points of the Chesney catalog.

"Kenny has so many hits. He's kind of like Jimmy Buffet with his steel drums," said Mike Rios, 49, from Deltona. "My little girl's favorite song is Don't Blink."

Benjamin Webster, 30, an attorney from Orlando, said he's not a huge country music fan but he has been to see Chesney twice before in Michigan. He had high hopes that he'd enjoy this concert as well.

"He was fantastic. It's honestly the best concert I've ever been to," he said. "I thinks it's a universal music and the voice of a generation."

Connie Blankenship, 46, and her husband, Kenneth Foster, 48, extended their vacation one day to catch Chesney in concert. The couple drove down from Phenix City, Ala., for an annual weeklong stay in St. Petersburg when they heard about the show.

"We're in the nosebleeds but I just love Kenny Chesney," said Blankenship, a customer service representative.

The couple arrived late, and didn't plan to take part in the massive tailgate.

"We're here for the show," Blankenship laughed.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at rmitchell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3373.

Barbecue, drinks and games, before the Chesney-McGraw concert 06/02/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 11:03pm]
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