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Traffic, crowds manageable between Brooks’ shows

It was as close to not “going down ’til the sun comes up” as you can get for a concert in downtown Buffalo.

And those making their way to the 10:30 p.m. Friday performance by country legend Garth Brooks – the second of First Niagara Center’s twin-bill – were as giddy as those heading into his 6 p.m. show.

As for that wild two-step in the streets of downtown between shows?

You might say Brooks’ fans could have missed the pain but were by no means willing to “miss the dance.”

As the first Brooks concert ended about 8:45 p.m., Buffalo police and parking security were ready for the intro and the outro – getting fans on their way home and the incoming surge of fans for the 10:30 show to the arena.

Things went smoothly, with few problems.

Dressed for the chill, Buffalo police officers with glow wands were stationed at all major intersections near the arena. South Park Avenue was transitioned to a one-way, two-lane route for traffic headed from the arena.

Even a Rural Metro Ambulance dispatched for a medical emergency at the 716 sports bar at Washington and Scott streets had a fairly easy time making it there.

As crowds waited in the cold outside 716 before the 10:30 concert, staffers Heather Knepper and Brian Nicpon passed out cups of hot chocolate to the appreciative crowd – some adding to the warmth by dancing country style.

Earlier, the eager, cowboy-hat clad Brooks faithful braved wind chills in the single digits as they headed toward the arena from NFTA’s Metro Rail, limousines or nearby parking lots, which varied drastically in price from $8 to $40. The First Niagara Center parking ramp charged $20 and spots in a nearby lot in the Cobblestone District could be had for $15.

Still, many arrived early for the first show and said, despite the crunch against Friday afternoon rush hour, they didn’t seem to encounter any trouble.

“It wasn’t bad,” said Jeremy Riese of East Concord.

Riese, also wearing a cowboy hat and taking a break near an arena ATM about a half-hour before the concert, was completing the Garth Brooks hat trick in Buffalo. He attended Brooks’ first show here in Memorial Auditorium in 1994, his last appearance here in 1998 – and now, this tour.

“He’s what got me into country music,” Riese said. “He’s always been just ‘an average Joe’ that can sing.”

So, too, for friends Linda Campbell of Hamburg and Barb Cordell of Orchard Park.

“We saw him 17 years ago. It was the best concert I’ve ever seen. He makes it seem like he’s singing right to you,” said Campbell, admitting she expected to be tearing up if Brooks belted out “The Dance” – a song she dedicated to her late husband during his recent funeral.

In many ways, Brooks makes the connection personal to Buffalo fans.

“He’s a working-class guy and we’re a working-class city,” said Jeff Wojcik of North Tonawanda.

Wojcik, who left his car near his work in the Chippewa entertainment district and caught a ride on Metro Rail down to Canalside, was attending his first Brooks concert Friday. His wife, Karen, attended three of Brooks’ Buffalo performances in 1998.

“Just the energy he gives out,” said Karen Wojcik, “it goes through everybody.”

Most everyone had tickets in hand on their way to the sold-out show. There were no tickets available for any remaining shows on StubHub as of Friday night. Streetside scalpers, meanwhile, were commanding $100 to $200 per ticket. Ryan and Julie Britt came from Wellsville Friday to see the Brooks show, with three generations of family members in tow.

“My brother-in-law is here, his mom and his grandmother,” Julie Britt said.

What makes Brooks’ music so special to the family?

“It’s timeless,” Julie Britt said.

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