Photos From Swampstock
RAYVILLE, La. -- Some 22,000 fans endured unseasonably
cold temperatures at the Dixie Baseball Complex in Rayville, La., on Sunday (Oct. 28), drawn there by hometown hero Tim McGraw and his eighth annual Swampstock fundraiser. McGraw and company didn't disappoint. While providing
a day of great entertainment, the record-breaking event also raised money for the Rayville baseball program, a local scholarship
fund and the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Benefit Fund.
Under a cloudless blue sky, the massive crowd
gathered in the heart of cotton country, where McGraw and wife Faith Hill got things rolling with their annual softball showdown. Hill's red team featured Martina McBride and her husband John; McGraw's dad, Tug McGraw; The Warren Brothers -- Brett and Brad; Carolyn Dawn Johnson; former New York Met Ron Swoboda and members of McGraw's family. McGraw's blue team
consisted of his band and several of his longtime friends.
Even though the area was decorated with every type of celebrity
and star, Norman Rockwell himself could not have painted a more authentic slice of Americana than was in evidence on the Swampstock
field. McGraw's young daughters romped in the dugout with the McBrides' children while their parents played on the field.
Young students from the local elementary schools served as batboys for the day. The high school choir from Rayville sang the
national anthem while area girl scouts held 10 American flags waving in the afternoon breeze.
As introductions were
made, attention was paid to teachers and coaches who had worked with McGraw when he lived in Rayville, and he acknowledged
each and every one. He even walked his daughter Maggie, 3, onto the field to throw out the first pitch of the day while sister
Gracie, 4, stubbornly refused to join them. McGraw returned to Rayville as an award-winning country superstar, but his humanity
was front and center as he galvanized those around him throughout the day.
McGraw's team took the field as James Brown's
"Living in America" exploded from the loudspeakers, and the softball game was underway. The antics between the two teams were
nonstop, and the game itself remained neck-and-neck until the very end. The most exciting moment came early in play when a
police escort made its way onto the field to the sounds of Hank Williams Jr.'s Monday Night Football theme. The crowd erupted when Green Bay Packer quarterback
Brett Favre emerged from the car. Though injured and unable to play in the game, he remained on the sidelines to offer support
and entertain those watching.
Favre wasn't the only one to have his own theme song for the day. Each time McGraw came
to the plate, the chorus from an Elvis classic announced to the world that he was a "hunka hunka burning love." The crowd
enthusiastically agreed. Ultimately, Hill's team overpowered McGraw's squad in a 20-10 victory, their sixth consecutive triumph.
Asked how it felt to beat her husband in softball, Hill, who is expecting the couple's third child in January, grinned and
exclaimed, "It's a great feeling! At first I thought they might be playing us soft, but then I realized they were bringing
out the big guns toward the middle of it all. I'm thinking maybe they panicked, and we loved it!"
After young Catherine
Rainey from Waskam, Texas, made her second Swampstock appearance, the Warren Brothers kicked off the annual concert. The duo
proved that they hadn't left their energy on the softball field, serving up a rockin' set that got the crowd jammin' from
the beginning. They invited Johnson to join them on stage for a show-stopping version of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away." She then
took the stage alone with her guitar to offer a set of original material. The acoustic set featured her latest Top 5 single,
"Complicated," as well as other self-penned songs such as Jo Dee Messina's "Down Time."
McBride followed with a hit parade that showcased her powerful vocal
ability. Interwoven with her biggest recordings were personal favorites such as the lush arrangement of "Somewhere Over the
Rainbow" and the pop classic "I Can See Clearly Now." Without a doubt, the crowd was waiting for a particular song, and McBride
didn't disappoint. With lighters flickering in the night air, flags waving and fists pumping, the crowd joined her in proclaiming
"let freedom ring," because it was indeed "Independence Day."
All of this was a warm up for the main event. Folks from
Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Louisiana made up the largest crowd ever for this hometown
festival. Ranging in age from 8 to 80, they huddled in blankets and sipped hot chocolate as the temperature dropped to 44
degrees. When McGraw stepped out on the stage singing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," the darkness came alive as the crowd rose
to its feet. McGraw reeled off hit after hit as the crowd showered him with an explosion of flashbulbs while singing every
song note for note.
Even blowing out a sound generator during "Indian Outlaw" couldn't hold McGraw or the crowd down
for long. Within minutes the problem was corrected, and things picked right up where they left off. Hill joined McGraw on
stage for "It's Your Love," then sang "There Will Come a Day" solo before McGraw returned to the stage with "Things Change."
As the night drew to an end, you could hear the crowd singing his songs as an expression of how they felt -- "I Like It,
I Love It" and "a heart don't forget something like that."
Merle Haggard, sidelined by illness, had to cancel his appearance, but other artists offered high praise
for the experience. "It's great!" said Brett Warren of the event. "I've never had so much fun!" Johnson indicated that she
"had heard about Swampstock for years" and was "just really thankful that they asked me to be there." She added that she "couldn't
wait for the concert to see it all really happen, because so far it has been just wonderful." McBride, asked how Swampstock
ranked among all the cool things she had been able to do in her career, replied quickly, "This is THE coolest of all. I'm
just so glad to be here because it's lots and lots of fun. We just don't get to do this kinda stuff enough!" Hill summed it
up for her and her family. "It's just absolutely a great day. Everything is going so well, the field and complex is beautiful,
the crowd is amazing, and we're just thrilled. We're just so lucky!"
Photos From Swampstock