GERING, Neb. – Lights filled the sky, smoke billowed from the stage and music filled the air as people from around the region descended on the Five Rocks Amphitheater in Gering on Saturday to show their support for area farmers.
And the name of the show was fitting: Farmer Strong.
The concert, featuring Wyoming country performers Chancey Williams and the Younger Brother Band and Ned LeDoux, was the brainchild of Terry Gass, vice president of sales and district manager for 21st Century Equipment. Gass said he was at a baseball game one day in July – the day after a tunnel on the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal collapsed, shutting off vital irrigation water to more than 100,000 acres of farmland in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.
He felt he had to do something to help out producers – many of them customers of 21st Century. Those people were more than just business acquaintances and customers – in the tight-knit agriculture community in this area, they are family.
“I said, we’re going to hire Chancey Williams and Ned LeDoux to come play a benefit concert and (21st Century Equipment) is going to pay for it,” Gass recalled. “They’re both from eastern Wyoming, they’re both from ranching backgrounds – they get it.”
And the idea for Farmer Strong was born, he said. In the ensuing weeks, more people and organizations came on board. Lex Madden of Torrington Livestock heard about the fundraiser and signed on to auction off everything from bags of Pioneer and Dekalb seed corn to scholarships to a full year’s tuition at the University of Wyoming, Eastern Wyoming College and Western Nebraska Community College. The city of Gering donated use of the amphitheater for the concert. And the support just kept rolling in, Gass said.
When all was said and done Saturday, ticket sales, merchandise and food and beverage sales were tallied, totaling more than $190,000. But that’s not the end of the story.
Some people paid cash at the gate for entrance to the concert. Others bought blocks of tickets and gave them away. As of Monday, the money was still rolling in – all of it destined to support producers impacted by the tunnel collapse, Gass said.
“Before we’re done, we will probably be closer to the $200,000 level,” he said. “And we still don’t have a clear number on the ticket sales,” estimated at close to 1,500 souls.
“This was very well received,” Gass said. “And I spent all day with the musicians. Both of them came off ranches and were extremely appreciative of what we were doing and the heart we had to give bk. The response was extremely heartwarming.”