FONDA - With the stroke of a bow on a fiddle, a crowd in the sold-out arena at the 169th Fonda Fair knew what Charlie Daniels was going to play next.
The unmistakable notes followed by the unforgettable lyrics, "The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal," and with that the crowd rushed the stage for the classic they'd been waiting for all night.
Seating for 2,000 people was set up in the Arena between chairs and bleachers. The show sold out shortly after 7:30 p.m. as people took their seats in anticipation of one the fair's most well-known bookings to date. Tickets were sold in advance at Price Chopper and at the door.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Charlie Daniels plays his fiddle during the song “Devil Went Down to Georgia” during his concert at the Fonda Fair on Saturday.
As Daniels walked to the stage dressed in blue jeans, boots and cowboy hat, fans lined up along the ropes raising their cameras and cell phones hoping to get a nod and a photo from the legendary fiddler.
Sue Yamrozy of Scotia got to the show early enough to snag a seat in the front row for her first time to see the Charlie Daniels Band live.
This year also marks the first year Yamrozy has attended the Fonda Fair.
"It was something to do on a Saturday night," she said, adding that the $20 charge to see an American legend was a steal.
For 9-year-old John Cressy of Glen, who plays the fiddle, seeing Charlie Daniels was the highlight of the fair.
John, donning his cowboy hat and a red handkerchief around his neck, is a fair regular with his family, who are members of 4-H and compete in many of the livestock competitions and horse shows.
"This is awesome," said his mother, Margie Cressy. "It's Charlie Daniels right here in Fonda."
Daniels played a variety of classic favorites, including "Long Haired Country Boy" and "The Legend of Wooley Swamp." Drummer Pat McDonald also stole the show for about 10 minutes with a solo.
"Here's a small gesture of thank you," Daniels said as he played "In America" for the those in the U.S. Armed Forces after saying the pledge of allegiance.
This year's Fonda Fair Junior Princess, Tiffany Sargalis, looked forward to meeting Daniels all week, her mother, Wendy Sargalis, said.
All of the winners in the pageant are invited to meet the fair's Saturday night performers each year.
Wendy said Tiffany's sister, Kimberly, met Trent Tomlinson when she won Junior Princess in 2005 and Tiffany remembered the excitement.
Kelly Knoop of Fort Plain and her friend, Nicole Casolari, both 23, also had passes to meet Daniels and said he seemed like he was just excited to meet them as they were to meet him.
"He was very polite. It was wonderful," said Casolari, of Rochester. "I let him know I think I've been listening to his music my whole life and he said 'I think I've been playing music since before you were born.'"
Knoop said though past acts at the fair have been great, the Charlie Daniels Band is legendary.
"It's a huge deal for us," she said. "Others have come here, but he's a legend."
Daniels said before the show that meeting fans is something he looks forward to at each show.
"Every night before we play we have a meet and great," Daniels said. "I always enjoy that."
As for Daniels' favorite song to perform, he said he loves them all.
Saturday was "Country Folks Day" and also featured open gymkhana, 4-H livestock shows, the 4-H aerospace exhibition and rocket shoot and a demolition derby.
The Fonda Fair continues today with fireworks tonight at 10 p.m.
The last day is Monday with a parade scheduled at noon.
Amanda Whistle covers Montgomery County news. She can be reached at email@example.com