Flotilla of fans of country star Kenny Chesney docks every year near Heinz Field

Stretched from Heinz Field to the Andy Warhol Bridge, boaters lined the North Shore of the Allegheny River this week. Technically, they were awaiting the arrival of country singer Kenny Chesney, whose show has been a staple in the summer concert lineup since 2005.

But by now, the waiting is the reason they come.

"For some people, it's about Chesney," said Bart Cully of Fox Chapel. "But really, it's just about partying and hanging out."

For the true diehards, that means coming early and coming prepared.

Just ask Terry Grantz of Allison Park, who has been living on the river for more than three weeks in preparation. After securing a prime location near Heinz Field for their seven boats, Mr. Grantz and his friends brought out the necessities: two blow-up swimming pools, a tent, three coolers and plenty of cups to go around.

"Everybody knows everybody down here," said Mr. Grantz, who runs BoatPittsburgh.com. "This morning, one family cooked up breakfast and we'll throw some lunch on the grill later. It's one big family, really."

In 2008, Mr. Chesney himself joined in on the party.

"He came over the hill on a golf cart, followed by about a thousand people," Mr. Grantz said. "We put him up on the top of our houseboat and he played three songs for everybody.

"I don't remember which ones because I was just so excited, trying to take pictures and everything. It was really something."

The star hasn't turned up on the river since, but boaters like Karen Armstrong of Zanesville, Ohio, are hopeful that this is the year. This is the fourth time that Ms. Armstrong and her family have driven to Pittsburgh for the concert.

"We love following Kenny," Ms. Armstrong said. "We even went to Jost Van Dyke, like in the song, to see if we could meet him."

Jost Van Dyke, the smallest of the Virgin Islands, is a popularly rumored hangout of the 45-year-old Mr. Chesney, who mentions it in the song "Somewhere in the Sun."

As they drank, grilled and played corn hole Friday morning, Chesney fans said they were bracing themselves for what's to come Friday night and Saturday before the concert.

Police are doing the same.

Pittsburgh's Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said there will be an increase of officers dedicated to respond to 911 calls in Zone 1 today.

"We're treating it like we do a Steelers game," Ms. McDonald said. "There will be off-duty detail inside and outside of the stadium, working traffic management and in parking lots."

Pittsburgh police also will be working with Port Authority and state police to monitor the river and bridges.

neigh_city - music

Jessica Contrera: jcontrera@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1458. First Published June 22, 2013 4:00 AM


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