Renowned singer rocks the house at Patsy Cline Classic
By Candace Sipos -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Outside the Patsy Cline Theatre, it was cold and quiet Friday night. But inside, more than 1,000 people were singing, screaming and snapping pictures of Wynonna Judd, the most recent guest star at the third annual Patsy Cline Classic.
The concerts started in 2009 with a sold-out Willie Nelson show, and last year the Beach Boys came through the city. In March, concert organizers started looking for someone appropriate for the event, and the overwhelming verdict was that Judd fit the bill perfectly.
Sure, she has won five Grammys and sold more than 5 million albums, but she's also "somebody who looked up to Patsy," said Christian Schweiger of Zolivia Concerts. He noted a Rolling Stone article labeling Judd as "the greatest female country vocalist since Patsy Cline."
Russ Potts, executive director of the Winchester Education Foundation, which benefits from the proceeds of the concerts, agreed.
"I'm just thrilled that Wynonna has put us on her itinerary," Potts said. "We're really blessed to have a performer of this caliber ... it's a real tribute to this event."
Schweiger said the concert had almost sold out hours before the event.
After the showing of a black-and-white film reel of Patsy Cline and her family with her music on the soundtrack, the lights dimmed and Judd came out to sing tunes such as "The House is Rockin'," "No One Else on Earth" and "Change the World."
"You all have been so good to me today," Judd said, referring to Mayor Elizabeth Minor's earlier gift to Judd -- a key to the city. "I feel like the queen of Virginia."
Minor said she has only given out one other such key, to Willie Nelson.
Judd referred to Cline throughout the concert, noting that she was honored to sing in her hometown, in a theater named after the country music star.
"I pay homage to a lot of the 'sheroes' on whose shoulders I lean, and she's definitely one of them," Judd said.
She also gave an almost tearful speech about the brevity of life, noting that she's heading to Florida today to sing at Dan Wheldon's funeral. Wheldon, an IndyCar driver, was killed in a crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
The concert drew hundreds of guests, who came for various reasons but spoke as one in favor of Judd.
Anita Shull stood outside the "Meet and Greet" area with her husband, waiting for the opportunity to meet Judd before the concert.
"We're so lucky ... to have somebody like that come to Winchester," Shull said, pointing at her heavily studded "Wynonna belt."
"We just can't wait to meet her ... I grew up with country music and I heard a lot of Wynonna and her mother."
Sharon Rudolph stood in the same line with three of her friends, who called her "Wynonna's biggest fan."
"She has the best voice in country music," said Rudolph, of Hagerstown, Md.
Her group of friends bought tickets to the concert as soon as they heard that Judd was the chosen star. "This is the closest she has been around here for quite a while," Rudolph said.
Danny Kambrose sat with his wife near the stage. His children bought them tickets to the concert for his 52nd birthday, which was Friday.
Among the other attendees were the entire Winchester Education Foundation board and many Winchester public school officials, including Superintendent Rick Leonard. Also attending was Randy Minchew, Republican candidate for the 10th District delegate's seat, and the 13-member family of Fern and Douglas Adams, who soon will be named on the theater's stage.