MILLIGAN, Neb. — Lights, cameras and country music warmed up thousands of people who swarmed this town Saturday to get a look at a country star and maybe — just maybe — be part of a commercial promoting the Super Bowl.
They came to get a look at Grammy-nominated country singer Lee Brice, known for No. 1 songs including “A Woman Like You,” “Hard to Love” and “I Drive Your Truck.”
Jess Sanford, 13, was one of about 2,000 people who came to see Brice, who took a few minutes to greet fans in the afternoon before performing a concert Saturday evening.
Jess, an eighth-grader at Lincoln's Scott Middle School, hugged Brice as her mom snapped photos. Jess also got an autograph in a “memorable” fashion: Brice scribbled his name on her forehead.
“Now everyone else can see it,” she said. “It was so cool.”
On a gray Saturday, the sign at Farmers and Merchants Bank on Main Street said the temperature was 21 degrees, but it felt colder as the wind whipped down the town's two-block main drag.
Freezing cold didn't keep people from lining the streets to watch Pepsi crews roll cameras while York High School's marching band and pep squad marched up and down the street and performed in uniforms branded with the beverage company's logo.
The band performed several times as cameras rolled, a boom swung over the crowd and a producer barked orders to the band and bystanders alike.
The footage shot here will be used as an online video promoting the halftime show, which is sponsored by Pepsi, of the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
Dubbed “Halftime America,” the video will be released this week. A Pepsi representative said Milligan was chosen because it's halfway between New York and Los Angeles.
Katie O'Brien, 17, of Crete, Neb., arrived early to see Brice. She waited in the cold for three hours to be in the front row for the concert. She wanted to hear him play “Parking Lot Party” and get close enough to touch his hand.
“When the lights come on, they're gonna warm up a little bit,” Brice told The World-Herald before his performance. “I'm really excited to see the faces of Milligan. This kind of town doesn't get anything like this sometimes ever. I think it's perfect for this kind of place. I'm just lucky to be a part of it.”
It was a big day in Milligan.
Cars lined every street in the town — population 285, according to the sign by the highway — and every parking space all the way to Highway 41 was taken. License plates bearing numbers from various Nebraska counties showed that people came from all around.
Throughout the day, Pepsi trucks blocked off the center of town and pop machines distributed free cans emblazoned with the slogan “Get Hyped For Halftime.”
The York High School band was hyped for a couple of weeks before Saturday, said Principal Mitch Bartholomew. Band members had only two days to rehearse, he said, but students spent weeks buzzing about the event, which remained a mystery until Saturday.
“I've been in York for 15 years and I can't think of anything quite like this,” he said.