RALEIGH — No one will confuse Saturday night's Taylor Swift concert crowd at the RBC Center for the fans who will show up in June to see The Eagles.
An army of girls, down to elementary school age, descended on the arena to watch Swift perform. Most of the girls came with their mothers, with only a smattering of dads and boyfriends mixed in.
"We worship her," said Betsy Teel, 9, of Raleigh. "I pray for her. I really do."
Teel's family showed up early to tailgate in the parking lot. Against the backdrop of N.C. State's Carter-Finley Stadium, the group of eight girls and four mothers downed a spread that included chicken nuggets and country ham biscuits. Pictures of Swift adorned the table.
But it wasn't cheap getting in to the concert. Tickets sold out within minutes of going on sale in October.
Sonja Ostendorf joined many parents who went to online ticket resellers and shelled out more than $200 per ticket, well above face value. Ostendorf said she wouldn't normally pay that much to take her 12-year-old daughter, Katie, to a show, but she made an exception in the case of someone with a wholesome image such as Swift.
"She's a great role model for kids," said Ostendorf, 46, of North Raleigh. "She doesn't take her clothes off."
The price was too steep for Master Sgt. Erik Marketto, 37, who is assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro. But he didn't want to disappoint his 6-year-old daughter, Aleyna.
So Marketto entered a WQDR-FM contest asking what people would endure for tickets. Marketto's price was to dress up like Swift, complete with blonde wig and white dress, as he performed karaoke in front of the RBC Center.
"I love her, and I'm getting ready to go away," said Marketto, who said he couldn't discuss his deployment.
After belting out several of Swift's songs, Marketto and his daughter got their tickets and backstage passes. Aleyna was glad to go even though she admitted "it was embarrassing" watching her father.
Swift's character and her songs resonate with many of her fans. But unlike most of the crowd, Samantha Fleming got the chance to express her appreciation to Swift in person Saturday.
Art nets a meeting
Fleming, 19, a UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore from Calabash, had spent the past two weeks painting portraits of Swift and her band members and brought the portraits with her to the RBC Center on Saturday morning. After giving them to one of Swift's assistants, she was told that Swift's mother liked them so much that she arranged for Fleming to go backstage to meet the singer.
The brief conversation and photo with Swift before the concert is something that Fleming will treasure.
"She's very, very sweet," Fleming said. "It was a really memorable experience."
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