La PORTE – Country music star Sara Evans made a fairly last minute appearance at the La Porte Civic Auditorium on Nov. 25.

The second stop along her Christmas tour, Evans was only booked three weeks prior. Bethany Lutheran Church reached out to her and she responded that she would like to help with their fundraiser – the La Porte splash pad. Evans said she would come to La Porte, having played in Cincinnati the day before and was en route to Carmel, Indiana.

Along with the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, Bethany Lutheran Church is spearheading a project to open a splash pad park, which so far has raised $250,000. Their goal is $350,000. The park will be free and able to accommodate those with disabilities. The park is slated to open spring of 2019, pending they reach their goal.

Carey Garwood, Outreach Director for Bethany Lutheran, was responsible for booking and coordinating the event.

“I’m a big fan of Sara. I’ve seen her before at Blue Chip. I contacted her and she liked the benefit (splash pad) idea. She acts like she’s part of the crowd. She’s good at interacting with them,” Garwood said, stating her favorite tune of the night was the rendition of “O Holy Night.”

The night started early at 5:45 p.m. with opening act Brian Wheatbrook, a La Porte native. A last minute addition, Wheatbrook took the place of the Fairground Saints band, who could not make it. Wheatbrook opened with “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” performed several originals and ended with “O Holy Night.”

“I think the concert was a great success,” Wheatbrook said afterward. “I loved her whole show. Her voice is flawless! I was so privileged to be part of a good cause and show.”

The second act was Spencer Crandall, of Nashville, Tennessee, who opened with cover “Drunk on Your Love” by Brett Eldredge.

Crandall mixed humor in with song, getting the crowd to laugh on more than one occasion.

“I was told this is a Christmas concert. Well, I don’t know any Christmas songs, do you?” he joked with the crowd. “I was going to be a football player, but two shoulder surgeries later, here I am...”

“My music career got off to a rough start. My first (Twitter) post had zero likes. My second one, I got one like. From my mom...” he joked, “so my twitter handle is Spencyboo... hey I thought that was cool when I was 14.

“I love love songs. Heck I cried when I watched the Notebook,” Crandall joked. “I’ve also got a man-crush on Justin Timberlake.”

Crandall played several more covers including, “In Case You Didn’t Know,” by Brett Young and “Cruise,” by Florida Georgia Line. Crandall ended his set with an original.

The star of the show, American Country artist Sara Evans, from Mountain Brook, Alabama, brought the crowd to their feet with her song “Long Way Down.” Evans announced the event would be a mix of Christmas songs and her originals.

She introduced her seven piece band, which is comprised halfway of family – her sister Lesley Evans on backup vocals, her brother Matt Evans on bass guitar and her son Avery Barker on guitar, making up the family members on stage. Other members included Jim Bloodgood on drums, Adam Hampton playing keyboard and Ben Thompson on lead guitar.

The band played many Christmas hits including “O Holy Night,” “Run Run Rudolf,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Merry Little Christmas.” She also performed from her 2014 album “At Christmas,” the original song of the same name.

To her surprise, Evans asked the crowd if they’ve ever had a bad breakup, to which the crowd shouted “Nooooo!” Taken aback a little, she continued on performing her song, “Marquee Sign,” stating it was a song off her newest album, “Words,” and was a song about losing relationships.

The biggest applause by far was when Evans performed her hit single “Suds in the Bucket,” which brought everyone to their feet. Prior to playing the song, she said, “this song is about a bad boy from Indiana... are there any bad boys out there? It’s about a girl running away in his pickup truck, this one is called “Suds in the Bucket.” Following the song, she performed another hit single, “Born to Fly,” which got the crowd dancing and clapping along.

At one point, Evans told the crowd she was unable to get a selfie with a little girl earlier that night. She asked the girl to come to the stage to get a selfie with her, which made the girl’s night.

“She tried to get a selfie with me but my pants were falling down, so I owe you one, come on up here,” Evans announced, to the awe of the audience.

Evans brought some more humor to the stage stating, “thank you all for coming out, I know how hard it can be to get out of the house. I’m a TV addict, I never leave my tour bus, I just stay in there all day watching TV, I didn’t even see your town coming in, and actually, I don’t remember the last five years.”

The concert came to a close with a cover song, “Shut up and Dance,” by Walk the Moon, which had the audience up and dancing, ending with a roar of applause.

Audience member, Matt Moore from Carmel (which incidentally will be her next stop on tour), had never seen Sara Evans before, but intended to go to her next show in his hometown. His favorite song of the night was the cover, “Shut up and Dance,” which he said surprised him as it was out of genre.

His friend, Nolinda Surowiec, of La Porte, said her favorite song was “O Holy Night,” her husband, Chris Surowiec, who intends to go to her next show, enjoyed “Suds in the Bucket” most.

Attendee Kelley Merry came from Kouts to see Sara for her fifth time. Her favorite tune was classic “Suds in the Bucket.” Her friend Natalie Yudt, who also has seen Sara Evans five times, said her favorite song of the night was “O Holy Night.”

“That high note she hit was amazing,” she said.

Laura and Robert Sabie, of La Porte, came out for their first Sara Evans concert. Their favorite song was “Stronger.”

Following the concert, Garwood said the event couldn’t have gone more smoothly.

“The crowd was very excited, we’re proud to be able to help accomplish our goal, this was amazing,” Garwood said.

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