Ashley Peterson and her cousin Jennifer Schuler swayed and waved their hands in the air as Parmalee sang "Carolina."
"Home is where my heart is still beatin'" …
The two ladies listened as the Southern country music group performed several older and new hits Saturday night. Schuler had driven four hours from St. Louis, Missouri to see them, Runaway June and Easton Corbin perform at Fort Knox. But she had another reason.
"She's here to celebrate my birthday with me," said Peterson. Peterson turned 26 two days later.
Officials from the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation estimated that more than 5,000 fans showed on Brooks Field Saturday night to take in the free concert. Crowds gathered so quickly that between 6 and 6:45 p.m., officials had handed out 1,000 chairs.
Runaway June kicked off the concert after a welcoming by Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr., commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox.
Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne, which make up the group, played some of their more familiar hits before ending the set with two crowd pleasers: the national anthem, which had the crowd turning around and rendering respect to the flag flying in front of Cadet Command headquarters; and their latest release, "Buy My Own Drinks," set to hit the streets the next day.
In the crowd sat Lt. Col. Leslie deSander, the Soldier Support Branch chief for U.S. Army Human Resources Command.
"For the size of the post, I've had the most concerts here. It's wonderful," said deSander. "They do a great job at MWR."
She said Runaway June surprised her.
"I haven't known too much about them but now, I'm getting ready to download all their songs," said deSander.
After a 30-minute intermission, Parmalee took to the stage and got the crowd on their feet with their more rocking style of country.
"She feels like Carolina, looks like California, shining like those New York lights …"
Peterson and Schuler joined the crowd in singing along with Parmalee as they played one of their biggest hits to date.
"We love Parmalee," said Peterson.
"We listen to them all the time on the radio," said Schuler.
Between sets as the crowd waited for the arrival of Easton Corbin, the headliner, Peterson poked fun at Schuler's knowledge of Fort Knox.
"She thought the Soldiers all lived in tents over here," Peterson said.
Schuler nodded and laughed: "But it's been a good time tonight, well worth the drive. It's a real nice community here."
The crowds got on their feet and moved closer to the stage when Corbin took came out for the final set of the night. Peterson and Schuler, both huge fans of Corbin, said they were looking forward to seeing him perform live.
Peterson just gave birth to twins, and said though she likes Corbin, it's her husband, Tor, who she is the biggest fan of.
"He's the true hero," Peterson said. "He's at home right now taking care of two babies."