By definition, a celebration is a joyful occasion for special festivities to mark some happy event. On December 23, 2012 in Allentown, PA chasers convened to celebrate the ending of an incredible journey and the beginning of another for the beloved tenor, Ryan Ahlwardt.
For Amanda and me, this adventure started right after the Mohegan show ended. We left the show and went back to my apartment so that the next morning we could get up and be on our way to Allentown. Knowing full well that the show wasn’t until Sunday, and we only had tickets to the evening show; we still decided that traveling on Saturday was our best option. We were approaching the holiday season and knew traffic had the potential of being heavy, and we suspected Sunday was going to be an emotional day (and who wants to add travel to that?).
The trip was pretty uneventful and we were able to make the journey from Uxbridge, MA to Allentown, PA in about five hours. Seeing as neither one of us had been to Allentown before, we relied heavily on my GPS which logically left us hopelessly lost wandering the Allentown streets. There were many one-way streets and abrupt turns that left my GPS (and me) so confused and in a constant state of recalculation. When we finally made it to the hotel, we decided to tweet Jerome asking if there were any must- sees in Allentown. We had a solid 24 hours of time to spend here, and we had already proven just venturing out to see what it had to offer was probably going to result in disaster. Jerome kindly responded that we should check out the Promenade Shops, so after some warming up next to the heater and making up some ridiculous life stories for the people walking on the streets below, we decided to do just as he recommended.
We located the Promenade Shops (surprisingly) with ease and minimal confusion. We were taken aback by the enormity of the shopping center as we drove around looking for a place to park. We had overlooked the fact that it was the weekend before Christmas and many people were out doing last minute shopping. When we finally parked the car, the biting wind deterred us from perusing the many wonderful shops we had just driven by. Instead, we located the nearest restaurant (Red Robin) and got some dinner. As we ate, we stared at the movie theater that was right next door and decided that that was the place we should spend the remainder of our evening. It was bound to be warm and cozy in there. We sauntered over to movie theater and were disappointed when we were not whisked in (Charlie, have you been lying to us?). We opted not to purchase the wheelbarrow of popcorn or the bucket of diet Coke because we had just eaten dinner and settled into the long three hour journey that is the Hobbit (which was excellent by the way), with only a minor Twitter distraction from Charlie (thanks for the laughs…this must be why they advise you to turn off your cell phones). It was even colder and darker when the movie ended, so we made our way back to our hotel room, which had become a tropical island due to the fact that we had left our heat on full blast.
The following day there would be no matinee show for us, so we decided that we would get up, find one of the bazillion Dunkin Donuts we had driven by (we logically ended up at the sketchiest one), and buy new batteries for our lights. Dull “Lite Brites” would be unacceptable for Ryan’s last show. The hunt for batteries should have been a simple task, but Radio Shack only sold the batteries we need in packs of one. So after visiting two Radio Shacks and wiping out both of all of their batteries, we had just enough to put new batteries in 7 strands of lights (that’s 14 batteries in case you were wondering…we had 4 to begin with and bought 10 individual batteries…it was pretty hysterical). We accomplished the tedious task of changing the batteries in half of the strands of our lights, got show ready, and then went on the fun and exciting adventure of finding some food….seriously, Allentown is a maze.
Once our quest for nourishment was complete, we made our way to the venue. We were happy to see that there was a parking lot next to the venue, no scavenger hunt necessary. I parked the car near the buses…it seemed like as good a spot as any to keep my car. We were making sure we had everything we needed when I saw Mike walking from the venue to the bus. All I could exclaim to get Amanda’s attention was “Hey! He has pants…he has special pants!” I was trying to tell her that one of the guys was walking by, but just couldn’t seem to find those words. This left us in hysterics. We tried to compose ourselves the best we could before exiting the vehicle and making our way to the venue.
We had to be at the venue for 6:15. Many of the Chasers had created a scrapbook for Ryan and, with the help of Richard, would be presenting it to him before his final show. We were unable to participate in the scrapbook making due to lack of time and work responsibilities, but we wanted to be there to show him our support. When Richard came out into the lobby, we were all instructed to remain quiet and take seats toward the back of the venue. When we were all settled, he went backstage to get Ryan and Lauren. Ryan was surprised to find all of us in the venue, but I think he was touched by the gesture. He talked to us in a heartfelt manner about his decision and reassured all of us that he would still be around. Cindy presented him with his gift and put everything we were all thinking into words for us. We all just wanted Ryan to know that we would love and support him in all of his life journeys and that we loved him for everything he had brought into each and every one of our lives. After some quick hugs from Ryan and Lauren, we wiped away our tears and went back into the lobby so that the venue could get ready to seat everyone for the show.
We had purchased our tickets within days of Ryan making his announcement, so our seats were further back in the venue that we are normally used to (Row S), but Trist seemed to approve. He always tells us the sound isn’t at its best when you are too close to the stage. It did sound pretty amazing. Amanda and I were a roller coaster of emotions during the show. I can only really speak for myself, but I’m pretty sure Amanda and others also experienced moments throughout the show that resulted in tears, with counteracted moments of joyous laughter. Videos were taken throughout the night by many so I won’t recount all of the emotional times and shenanigans (although I will highlight that silly string was a genius decision by the guys). Instead I will just say that it truly was a musical celebration, just like Ryan wanted.
We walked by Lauren as we were making our way toward Trist. We decided that we wanted to say goodbye to her, so we stopped and exchanged some hugs and some tears. We dried our eyes and made our way over to Trist. We needed to commend him on the sound from the back of the venue and to see if he still had a set list we could have. Both of us were able to get set lists (his and Nate’s), and Trist even handed me a set list from the early show…asking if we had gotten one from that show. Why would we? We hadn’t even attended that show. It was set list overload, but we loved it!
It was then time for us to go find the meet and greet line. The lobby area was very tiny and the end of the line had made its way outside the venue. We decided it would be better to take some time to converse with Kyle and Luke. The end of the line would eventually make its way to us. A much better scenario than standing out in the freezing cold. The line seemed short and moved quickly (especially compared to our previous line at Mohegan). We hopped into line when the end made it to us, and were at the table within minutes.
Walt was first and we instantly began a discussion about our lights when he spotted us. We talked about how we added two green strands to our usual Christmas lights for Ryan and how we had wiped out every RadioShack in the area. He found this amusing and it led to a hysterical enactment from Walt of how he envisioned us years from now, when we’re obviously still doing this, and we’re so weighed down with lights we can barely move. This even included him dramatically slumping over onto the table. (A little foreshadowing for you…he doesn’t have to wait too long to see this vision play out).
Don was seated next to Walt and exclaimed “I didn’t know you guys were going to be here!” when he saw us. Really, Don?! You didn’t notice us even though we had 7 strands of lights on each? We’ll have to try harder next time. He then admitted that he had a confession and said, “I’m terrible at locating people in the audience. I don’t even know where my wife was tonight.” My logical reply was “Oh, she was sitting near us.” We all laughed at this exchange as we made our way toward Charlie.
Charlie glanced at us asked if we had all of our lights on. The answer was shockingly no. He told us we could have just lied which led us to remind him that he already knew the answer to that question before asking because we didn’t have our leis on. Amanda also told him that we happen to purchase many new strands of lights, but have never thrown any away. Charlie then threw down the gauntlet and challenged us to wear all of our lights one time. Challenge accepted, Charlie.
Jerome was next and without hesitation he asked, “When am I going to see you next? A Hyannis Sound show?” (You’re going to be at a Hyannis Sound show, Jerome?!?!?) I reassured him that we would see him in February. He then asked, “How cool would it be if we got a member of Hyannis Sound to become our new 10th member?” Knowing full well that Jerome was joking and this would never happen, I exclaimed, “That would be AMAZING!” Angrily, Jerome yelled, “NO! That would not be amazing!” Mike was sitting next to Jerome and was confused why we were discussing this. He said, “We already have our 10th member. We don’t know who he is yet, but we already have him.” I reassured him that I was joking and knew that. We then told him we would see him in Charlotte in February for both shows! He got super excited. Jerome, however, was visibly disappointed. Not about seeing us at two shows in one day, but he clarified that it was difficult to perform two shows in one day. Mike told us that the February shows would probably be the exact same show we just saw. We said that that was okay, we’d still be there. He then amended that it would be the exact same show except Ryan wouldn’t be there. I stated that makes the shows automatically different. He seemed to agree with this statement. DR then told us that there we would be many surprises in February. When isn’t this the case?
The conversation came back to our lights at some point around this time and Seggie looked at us and told us we should take them off. He was genuinely concerned, which threw us off a bit. He said we would “get radiation. It’s science.” This warranted a hearty laugh from the two of us, and we wondered where his science facts came from. We also felt like we were getting conflicting messages from Charlie and Seggie. We ignored his concern and moved on to Tyler who questioned why we weren’t at the matinee show (big words, Tyler…and thanks for noticing). We pointed out that we hadn’t been planning on making the journey to Allentown this weekend until Ryan had made his announcement and thankfully PBS had released some more tickets so we could make it happen. He thanked us for making the journey and said it was really nice that we had come. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Randy was next. He always enjoys hearing about our escapades involving our lights and had even previously joked about how we would need an extension cord soon to keep ourselves lit. We told him we went to Home Depot today but couldn’t find an extension cord long enough. He told us that next time we should get those icicle lights that have moving lights. I think Randy should be in charge of lights for the next show. His ideas are always so elaborate.
Ryan was last in the meet and greet line. *deep sigh* Our conversation with him was brief. We both gave him cards and giant hugs. He then thanked me for the card my mom had given him again. We weren’t ready for goodbyes yet so we gathered our set lists and stood off to the side to wait for group pictures. I mentioned before that the lobby was tiny. We were on the opposite wall from the meet and greet line, but literally feet away from Ryan and Randy. This led to some hysterical shenanigans between the four of us that are difficult to explain, but left us in happier spirits. Vicky was even standing near us and after the shenanigans were through stated that that was cute and wished she had videoed it.
Not long after, it was time for group pictures. We waited in line patiently, watching the usual photo shenanigans unfold. When our turn came, Ryan decided that he had to get in the middle. He literally pushed everyone out of his way and conveniently stood in front of Seggie. I’m surprised most of the guys got back into place in time for Richard to snap the picture, but it did make Seggie’s shenanigans much easier. As we were leaving the group, Ryan asked if we could get a picture together after. We weren’t going to tell him no, so we stood off to the side to wait for group pictures to finish.
At some point one of the Chasers (Holli from England) wanted certain guys up front with her and the others took it as if she didn’t want them in her picture at all. This led Seggie to come over to chat with us during this time. Amanda commented that at least people got him in their pictures. He thought she was referring to Holli’s picture and exclaimed that she had told him to get out of the picture and he always does as he’s told. I said, “That’s a lie.” And Amanda corrected him by telling him she actually was referring to our pictures. He said that he had given us a nice picture in Mohegan and he had been on such a great roll messing up our pictures. I’m glad to know that this had been his mission all along.
|That's a lot of chaser (courtesy of Julie)|
As we wandered off we quickly noticed Randy standing off to the side, taking in all of the craziness. Logically this led Amanda to yell, “Hey, we don’t have a picture with you!” Now was as good a time as any to fix this terrible situation. Don was also standing nearby so we decided we needed a picture with him as well. He decided that he wanted to take a picture of us instead. He went to walk away after complimenting us on how photogenic we were so we had to snatch him back up and get an actual picture with him before he escaped.
We took the longest, most roundabout way home from Allentown in an attempt to avoid the craziness of the city, but it gave us many hours to reminisce about this and other adventures we have had with SNC. So many fun memories have been made with Ryan, and we were so thankful that we could celebrate his final show with him!