Behind the scenes with…Mike Pleasant, concert manager (Part 1)

The N.C. State Fair kicks off in a few months, but there’s a ton of preparation already in motion. We’ll bring you behind-the-scenes interviews with fairgrounds employees working to bring you “A Whole Lotta Happy” when the gates open Thursday, Oct. 15.

We’re getting really close to announcing our 2009 Dorton Arena concert lineup (check back right here Monday, July 6, for the full scoop), so we wanted to check in with concert manager Mike Pleasant to see how he plans one of the Fair’s most popular attractions.

The ’09 Fair will mark Mike’s 30th, and for eight of those years he has been in charge of booking the Dorton Arena acts that perform each night during the Fair, and assisting the artists and their tour crews during their shows. It gets so busy during the Fair that Mike even sets up a mobile office at Dorton, right beside the tour buses that load in and out each day. Because he has so much interaction with these stars, I had to ask him what his favorite shows over the past few years have been.

That is a hard question.  We have had some good shows in Dorton the past seven years and it’s hard to pick just one.  I will give you my top five.

  • Brad Paisley – They put a boat on stage and he had the place rocking that night.  He is a super great guy and he and his entire group were great to work with. He was our first sell-out show.
  • Clay Aiken – It was a hard show to work because for the first time we had two shows that day.  The first show sold out in 9 minutes and the second show sold out in 11 minutes.  There was such a buzz in the arena before the show that you could just feel the excitement.  People came from all over the U.S. to see this show.  There were as many people from out of state as there were from N.C.  We had big screens set up on both sides of the stage and people taped the show from all angles.  It took the crew 7 hours to build the set for the stage.  They put in an elevator to raise him up through a clam shell with fog and he walked down a set of stairs to the stage.  I will never forget how loud the crowd got when they saw him come up out of the fog.  The stage was beautiful and the light show was unbelievable.
  • MercyMe –  Our first sell out Christian concert.  Everyone was into the show and singing along with the music.  They also delivered a great message that night. I still have people to tell me how much they enjoyed that concert.
  • Kellie Pickler – Her show was good but it is what she did after the show that impressed me the most.  She stayed for two and a half  hours and signed autographs and had pictures taken with fans.  She was very humble.  When she had finished signing all the autographs she wanted to have her picture made with all the police officers and my crew for herself.  I thought that was nice.
  • Chris Daughtry – He created a buzz and had a packed house.  It was so loud that night that you could hardly think inside the arena.  People had a great time that night and got their money’s worth.

Part one of our interview with Mike focuses on how he sets up the stage and seating arrangements right before the concerts, and how he goes about choosing and booking the artists each year. Check in next week for a tour of Dorton like you’ve never seen it before, when Mike takes us into the basement where the stars hang out, eat, get dressed and host their meet-and-greets.

Watch the video and let us know–who are you hoping to see in the concert lineup come Monday?

About Cotton Candy

Karlie Justus - blogged for the 2008 / 2009 N.C. State Fairs. This is her bio from 2009: When I'm not blogging for the N.C. State Fair, I go by Karlie Justus--but Cotton Candy suits me just fine. My earliest memories of the Fair are of the times my parents would bring my brother and I up from Asheville, N.C. for a double dose of the Fair and a N.C. State football game. Fast-forward two decades later, and I'm a public information officer for the deep fried celebration whose must-see Fair attractions include the giant pumpkins, decorated cakes and deep fried Oreos.


  1. Steve Gordon

    It appears the talent is already booked. It would be great to find Julianne Hough in that list of talent to appear at the fair. It’s always fun to find out who the “stars” will be. Keep up the great work.

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