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Fans enjoy fest's Friday concert





The stage was set for a shining night for Diamond Rio's Friday performance, as an estimated 10,000 Wild West Festival fans shared a night of rich harmonies and dynamic musicianship.

It was the first time Bob Dreiling, Hays, got the chance to see the band live, although he said he's listened to their music since their first recording.

Their signature harmonies, as well as their wide variety of songs, are a big part of Dreiling's attraction to Diamond Rio's music.

"I love the harmony," he said. "It's got some character to it.

"It's the real deal."

With an impressive career marked by three platinum albums, five gold records and four Country Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year awards, Diamond Rio also netted two Academy of Country Music Awards and the top Vocal Group of the Year Award.

Their most recent success, a Grammy award for their first-ever, full-length Christian music release, "The Reason," was awarded to the band at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards in 2011.

Lead singer Marty Roe told fans Friday night the project was something band members had wanted to do for a long time.

"We had a great time doing it," he said. "We're all believers up here on the stage, and we believe God had a big role in Diamond Rio's life.

"So we told our own story."

Formed in 1984, Diamond Rio features Roe, guitarist Jimmy Olander, drummer Brian Prout, keyboardist Dan Truman, bassist/harmony Dana Williams and Gene Johnson on mandolin/harmony. The band has sold more than 10 million albums. When they debuted in 1991 with the hit "Meet in the Middle," Diamond Rio became the first group in the history of country music to have a debut single reach No. 1.

Friday night's fans crowded the WWF stage as the band performed snippets of many of their past hits to ensure everyone would hear their favorite song sometime during the night. Layering harmonies, ripping on the keyboard and strings, fans were not disappointed by the energetic, yet down-to-earth, performance.

"We want to say 'thanks' to all you country music fans out there," Roe told the audience. "You are the reason we've been around for 21 years now.

"God bless for letting us hang around this long."

After hearing his first live Diamond Rio performance, Dreiling had one word to say, "awesome."

His favorite song, "One More Day," stood out as a highlight of the night for him.

"I love that song," he said. "They could sing that all day."

Fans lined up in front of the stage for autographs after the concert, many posing for pictures flashed by iPhones and cell phones.

Delores Rabas and Sarah Martin, Russell, held pictures and CDs for the band to sign. Rabas said she had been a fan of Diamond Rio for quite awhile. Enjoying her third WWF, Rabas said she would be heading back to Hays Saturday night for the Easton Corbin concert.

"I think it's been a really good concert year," she said.

Janae Linenberger, formerly of Hays and now living in Kansas City, a "legendary fan" of Diamond Rio, said she had seen the band perform four times, once at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays during her days as a Fort Hays State University student and twice in Kansas City.

As WWF security team members watched the band meet and greet fans following the concert, Mark Richmeier, WWF committee member took a moment to talk about his time spent with the band during the day, performing chauffeur duties.

"I've been fortunate enough to drive them back and forth from the hotel," he said. "They're very nice guys."

Richmeier, who has been involved with WWF since last year said he loved being a part of the event.

"There's a lot of people that put in a lot of hard work," he said. "Some great people are involved.

"And this crowd tonight was awesome."

WWF committee members estimate Friday night's concert was the third largest in the WWF's 18-year history, topped only by the Charlie Daniels Band and Uncle Kracker.