John and I have been Carrie Underwood fans since the day she auditioned for "American Idol". We rooted her on to win then and have happily followed her career through her profound success and the "happily ever after" wedding to Mike Fisher.
Seeing her in "Soul Surfer" was an extra perk - knowing her and her husband are Christians and seeing her take the opportunity for a roll that highlighted her faith was really special.
The biggest highlight, by far, though - was watching her performance with Vince Gill singing "How Great Thou Art" - I'll insert the Youtube clip of that.........goosebumps!!!
There's an added little connection for our family as well....I'll let you in on a little secret - Carrie Underwood happens to be John's "Celebrity Crush". Not in any creepy sort of way, just that superstar that John identifies as extra special.
So, when John discovered that Carrie's tour would include a stop in Portland, John found out the earliest possible time he could buy tickets, and purchased them for Mikayla, myself, and him. (Brayden wasn't interested in going - CRAZY BOY!). He landed tickets in Row 38 - and we were happy. Then, about a month ago, he found a source selling tickets in Row 8. He was so excited to tell me he got tickets for himself and I - and then I had to remind him....oops....what about Mikayla? No problem, he was able to secure two more tickets in the same row, however, they were sold in blocks of 2, so we needed to find a date for Mikayla. =) Enter "Kenady", Mikayla's Gilham BFF, whom we know also loves Carrie and has her own special connection. Kenady's uncle (Jonna's brother) is Paul Guastad, a professional hockey player for the Nashville Predators. Guess who also plays for the Nashville Predators? Mike Fisher....Carrie Underwood's husband. =) I want to put this out there, though, that that connection was NEVER a motivating factor for us to invite Kenady because of anything she could benefit us with. We ADORE Kenady, and were thrilled to give Mikayla an opportunity to have her best friend at her side for the fun of the concert/experience just like John and I have in each other.
John and Mikayla had a lot of fun heading over to the Leighton's house to spill the news to Kenady - and see if she'd take up the invite. They were overjoyed, and she gladly said "yes". Jonna wanted to go overboard to compensate for the ticket price, which John consistently declined, but eventually they settled that Jonna would simply make a "go at it" to see if there was any way her brother could "pull some strings" at making something special happen. (John over and over emphasized that it was absolutely unnecessary for the Leightons to do or try anything, but Jonna was eager to see what she could do).
Long story short (I know, too late...) - on Saturday we got a text from Jonna letting us know that because of her brother's friendship with Mike, we had four "Meet and Greet" passes waiting for us at "Will Call". Oh, the EXCITEMENT factor at our house with my two kids (Mikayla and John!) was off the charts. John just kept muttering, "Unbelievable".... "Bucket List"..... =)
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon. The day of the concert. It was a crazy-busy day for all of us. Our family opted to do a photo shoot that morning (if we were all gonna dress up, why not?). Then there was church. Then there was a bridal shower for Emily. At two, Brayden's football team had a game. As for the Leightons- Kenady was up in Seattle over the weekend for a prestigious soccer tournament (she's an INCREDIBLE athlete), while her mom spent the weekend in Portland - running and completing the Portland Marathon. (The Leightons are ALL incredible athletes, case in point, Jonna qualified for the Boston Marathon!). We were also taking with us Heather and Kelli who ended up selling their original tickets to purchase the Row 38 ones we had. (Questionable decision which was a bummer...row 38 didn't end up being all that awesome :[ ) Heather was in charge and hosting that shower, and the complications of getting Kelli up to the concert from Eugene to where she lived in Portland....it was all kind of kooky.
But, by 5:15, we were all able to meet up at the Burgerville just south of Portland. Chris Leighton (Kenady's dad) was able to deliver Kenady, and soon after, her mom arrived with the outfit she wanted to change into. What synchronization! A few minutes later - we made it to the Rose Quarter where Heather and Kelli split paths with our "family of four". Sadly, there were only four passes to be had.
We ended up panicking a little when we were only given one pass, but as it turned out, that was to our benefit - as the mix-up drew attention to our "family" and we were given special treatment- being told to stay at the end of the "Meet and Greet" line (a crew of about 40 contest winners or other lucky recipients) as they wanted to be able to give us a "personal hello" and spend more time with Mike and Carrie. Oh, wow, that sounded promising! These are the girls, waiting at the "Will Call" window for the "Meet and Greet" leader to arrive.
The first "M&G" pass we received, which we gave to Kenady. It was only because of her that we had the opportunity to get them in the first place.
While folks had their concert tickets scanned and bags checked into the concert building - we had the opportunity to purchase t-shirts for the girls (a gift from Kenady) so that could be the one item they'd be able to get autographed. Serendipitous!!!
From there, we were ushered down into the depths of the coliseum where all the band/sound equipment was stacked. We did a little primping and took some pictures.
Soon after the above picture was taken, we were approached by a good looking guy that asked if this was the "John Riley" family. He introduced himself as Mike Fisher. Oh wow. He spent the next HOUR accompanying us through the "M&G" line, chatting as he kept himself entertained through the rather "dull" day of being on tour with Carrie. He clarified that it is only because of the NHL strike going on that he was there in the first place to be with his wife - and while it was a neat opportunity, there's just not much for him to do when he accompanies her. Well, okay, we'll take on the job of entertaining you, Mike....you can count on us!
So ensued over sixty minutes of non-stop conversation with Mike. Knowing he and Carrie are Christians, talk of God seemed to take forefront with mention of ministries, missions, and future hopes and aspirations. Throw in some chit-chat about Carrie's crazy dogs that are around her more than Mike is, or the lament of migraines - it was good stuff. Throughout it all, John and I were struck with just how "huge" his and Carrie's lives are - but, we all love the same God and struggle day by day to keep Him at the forefront of our focus and recognize that no matter how much this world seems to promise, we'll never find lasting contentment until we are in His presence for eternity.
Eventually, we reached the point where Carrie was greeting, signing autographs, and taking pictures. The girls got their shirts signed and took a picture with just her.
And, then, for our picture, we asked if Mike could join us - as by then we were "best buds". =)
Just as we were about to say "good-bye" to this dynamic couple, John asked if we could pray for them. They said "Yes", and we all huddled together with arms around each others' shoulders (kids included) as John lifted up his prayer regarding their opportunity to glorify the Lord in all of the endeavors they pursue. That will go down as one of those profound moments of "amazing" in our lives.
Since we were the last to visit, we had to do a little hustling to get to our seats before the opening act of Hunter Hayes began. These girls are such sweet friends - on any given occasion one or the other will take each other's hand - in this case, to not lose each other. Priceless!!!
The girls are also carrying special posters they prepared before we knew we had the "M&G" passes that could potentially get Carries attention from the stage.
At our seats...
I can't even tell you how spectacular the sets were - the way they used just simple backdrops and then projected scenes and images upon them...unbelievable.
And, as for Carrie - I was struck with awe at the sheer power of her voice - how she could sing so many songs requiring such strength vocally - and just keep going. What a performer...
Halfway through the show, she descended off stage to do a costume change while the set was rapidly altered. Before we knew it, she was rising on a clear plexiglass "floating platform" and moving over the crowd - right on back to row 38 for Heather and Kelli... =)
(Outstanding panoramic pics courtesy of John's new I-Phone 5)
Four very happy concert attendees!