HAMLET – Richmond County may be a small rural community, but the talent that comes to visit sure isn’t. On Thursday night, former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler and renowned country music artist Phil Vassar brought their gifts to a packed Cole Auditorium on the campus of Richmond Community College.
Pickler has become a familiar household name after finishing sixth American Idol, winning Dancing with the Star aside Derek Hough, and producing multiple country albums and hits. Some of her hits include “Red High Heels,” “Best Days of Your Life,” and “Didn’t Know How Much I Loved You.”
She has been in movies and has become a television favorite, appearing on talk shows, as well as her own show “I love Kellie Pickler” on CMT.
Vassar has had many hits as both songwriter and artist. He has had 26 top 40s, 10 on them reaching number 1 on the charts. Some of his hits include “Just Another Day in Paradise,” “Six Pack Summer,” and “Carlene.”
He has written other hits as well such as Tim McGraw’s “My Next Thirty Years”, Alan Jackson’s “Right on the Money,” and Jo Dee Messina’s “Bye, Bye.”
The two artists put on a bright, energetic show full of familiar Christmas tunes, as well as many of their own hits.
Both Pickler and Vassar grew up very close to Richmond County, and had a lot to say about how great it is to be so close to home for the Holidays. Pickler, an Albemarle, N.C., native, performed a song she wrote with her husband, Kyle Jacobs, which referred back to her love for her grandmother who raised her and to a Carolina Christmas. She sang with pure vulnerability and received an amazing reaction from the crowd.
Vassar performed many of his hits, and guests enjoyed the show. Attendee Jacqueline Cockerton explained that she is a big fan of both performers and the performance Thursday was great.
“He [Vassar] was very energetic and got the crowd involved in his performances,” commented Cockerton. “I have Kellie’s CDs, and I am a huge fan of both artists. The show was really great.”
Jacqueline’s husband, Alex Cockerton, stated that he was, “glad somebody that big is willing to come to a county that has about 40,000 residents. It shows that she [Pickler] is still level-headed and humble.”
Richmond Observer co-owner Kenny Melvin was able to meet Pickler and Vassar after the show. According to Melvin, when he asked Pickler about how she feels, she stated that she, “was happy to be back in Carolina,” which was something she assured the crowd of throughout the show.
Melvin made a mention of fellow country artist, American Idol contestant and Richmond County native Bucky Covington. Pickler’s response was to, “tell Bucky (I said) hello.”
Joey Bennett, Cole Auditorium Director, discussed what bringing two large country artists to Richmond Community College means for the county.
“It is great, of course,” Bennett said. “This means full hotels and restaurants and great business for the community. It is an opportunity to have other communities visit our beautiful venue.”
Bennett continued to talk about what is means specifically for RCC.
“One of our main goals is to bring people on campus that wouldn’t normally be here,” Bennett continued. “We get to put out materials at these events and encourage them to maybe take an online class or participate is some of the curriculum.”
The Cole Auditorium has had many shows throughout 2017, but with the New Year comes brand new, exciting material. Upcoming shows include “Return of the Dukes” on February 2, Moscow Festival Ballet’s “Cinderella” on March 14, and “Million Dollar Quartet” on March 24.
To keep up with upcoming shows and events go to www.richmondcc.edu/cole-auditorium.