Bieber-mania comes to Timonium

State fair officials say they've never seen anything like the excitement being generated by Sunday's Justin Bieber concert

  • Justin Bieber performs at The State Fair Sept. 5.
Justin Bieber performs at The State Fair Sept. 5. (Associated Press )
September 02, 2010|By Chris Kaltenbach, Baltimore Sun

Bieber-mania hits Timonium this weekend. And the Maryland State Fair may never be the same.

"We've never had anything like this before, not for the state fair," says Andrew Cashman, the fair's assistant general manager. "It's unbelievable."

How unbelievable? The 12,000 general admission tickets to Sunday's concert sold out in 18 minutes. Plenty of tickets remain available for those willing to pay scalpers' prices, which start at about double the original cost of $47.50 and head up from there. With such a huge crowd expected, fair organizers had to come up with special guidelines to ensure fans weren't clogging the fairgrounds hours beforehand to get the best seats.

The solution: armbands will be distributed Sunday beginning at 8 a.m., allowing fans to go home (or, better yet, enjoy the rest of the fair) before coming back at 5:30 p.m. Then, depending on the color of their armbands, fans will be let into the racetrack infield in groups of 1,000. Attendees will doubtless start lining up for armbands at the crack of dawn Sunday.

Sara Armetta is one such fan. The 15-year-old Towson High sophomore will be seeing Bieber at the fairgrounds in Allentown, Pa., Saturday night, then high-tail it back home so she can be in line for those Timonium armbands by 5 a.m.

"I'd do anything for him," she says. "I saw him on YouTube, and he's just so down to- arth, and he just inspires me to never give up. He's just really sweet to girls. And he's really cute."

Fair officials are getting used to that level of excitement.

"This is by far the most thrilling show I've put together," says promoter Paul Manna, whose first year of booking shows for the state fair turned awesome when he landed Bieber back in June.

"Just look at the excitement level surrounding the show — there are so many excited kids, and parents, for that matter. That first day that tickets went on sale, I had four phone calls to my home number, from people that I didn't know, asking how to get tickets."

All this for a Canadian kid who's barely old enough to drive? A singer whose first CD, "My World," has been in stores less than a year? Someone most adults had probably never heard of until their squealing teen and pre-teen daughters suddenly developed an overwhelming need to go to the Maryland State Fair on Sept. 5?

Perhaps a little background is in order — a little Bieber 101. Justin Bieber was "discovered" in 2008 and signed a record contract after auditioning for Usher. His first single, "One Time," was released in July 2009. He appeared on "Saturday Night Live" on April 20; one skit had Tina Fey fantasizing about him. Still, his image is pretty wholesome. Young girls, who can't get enough of him, like his boyish voice, his songs of longing aimed squarely at a teen audience, his fresh-faced demeanor and his mop of carefully blown hair.

He's probably the hottest thing in music right now. He has collaborated with Usher, Kanye West, Ludacris and Sean Kingston. And Sunday night, Justin Bieber will be in Timonium. The crowds are going to go wild.

"I think we're really ready," says Cashman, fingers firmly crossed.

Things almost turned ugly this week, when an unspecified illness forced Bieber to postpone a scheduled Sunday show at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. Fans worried that Bieber might not be well enough to make it to Timonium. But Manna assures the apprehensive that all is well, and that as far as he knows, everything is a go for Sunday.

"We got a few phone calls in the morning, from some concerned fans, but at that point, our show was a week away," Manna says. "If it happened a day before our show, then I would have been concerned."

Bieber played New York's Madison Square Garden on Tuesday and the makeup concert in Syracuse was Wednesday. Apparently, everyone can rest easy.

For his fans, Bieber-mania is just a natural reaction. To them, the amazing thing is how anyone can resist.

"Justin will always be my favorite," says Madison O'Beirne, 13, an eighth-grader at Arbutus Middle whose father landed her tickets for the show. She and her friends, Madison says, "are just obsessed. I want to say it's his looks, but he also has really meaningful songs, they're really speaking to you."

Agrees 9-year-old Jada Gainer, a fourth-grader at the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda who has already made a poster to take to the show, "The first time I heard his music, I was like, 'Wow, this is really good.' So I've been a big fan for the last couple years. He has really good songs. And I love his hair."

If you go

Justin Bieber plays the Maryland State Fair in Timonium at 7 p.m. Sunday. The show is sold out. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., with admittance regulated by armbands being distributed at fair ticket gates beginning at 8 a.m. The fairgrounds is at 2200 York Road. Information:

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