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WHEN ELVIS CAME TO TOWN IT WAS TEARS & SCREAMS
Editor’s note: This is the first in the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Arena Flashback series, stories looking back at memorable moments in Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena
histor
y, which opened in 1958 and will be demolished in May to make way for a new $93 million expo center.

Shirley Romsos wasn’t just there when Elvis Presley played Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena on April 28, 1977.

She was in the front row.

She didn’t just stand in line to get tickets for what would go down as most famous concert in the arena’s 60-year history.

She was the first in line.

Romsos was in her 20s when she and three of her co-workers at Fort Howard paper company left work early on a Friday morning in March to begin a 22½-hour wait for the box
office to open the next day. They told their foreman they were all sick. Nice try, but he wasn’t buying it, so they confessed to what they were really up to and off they went.

News that Elvis Presley was coming to Green Bay was so incredible that Romsos said she could hardly believe it. She wasn’t alone. The arena received more than 3,000 calls the
day the concert was announced.


There would be 6,532 tickets available; 800 of them for $12.50 and the rest for $15. They were expected to be gone in three hours. “Unprecedented demand” is how Ken Eslinger,
the person in charge of ticket sales, put it to a reporter back in 1977.

Presley was still turning out hits like “Kentucky Rain” and “Burning Love” in the ’70s, but the process of getting a concert ticket back then was a far cry from today. No online sales,
no presales, not even any phone sales. It was in-person at the box office only. Cash only. Four tickets per person.

The line Romsos and her friends started eventually ballooned to 3,000 people and snaked all the way around the arena back to where the Packers Hall of Fame was once housed
at the rear of the building. Temperatures were in the 20s, making the snowmobile suits brought by one of the husbands a lifesaver. Romsos remembers they took turns using a
restroom at a gas station two blocks away so as to not risk losing their prime spot in line.

While newspaper accounts said some people, bundled up with blankets and sleeping bags, drank from flasks all night, not Romsos.

“We didn’t drink anything. We just had hard candy to chew on, and then our friend’s husband brought us food,” she said.

Tickets that went on sale at 8 a.m. were all snatched up by 9:10 a.m. Some people cried when they got them. Some cried when they didn’t. A Green Bay Press-Gazette story said
one woman, who had waited for seven hours, sat down on the sidewalk and sobbed when she came away empty-handed. “I didn’t even do this for the Packers,” she said.

The box office took in an estimated $10,000 that morning.

In the weeks leading up to the show, tickets began showing up in the classifieds to buy or sell. One ad read: “Elvis Presley tickets for sale or will trade for lawn furniture.” A few
people paid as much as $100 for front-row seats.

Presley flew into Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport on his private jet named after his daughter, Lisa Marie, a Convair 880 with a stereo system and gold-plated
bathroom fixtures. Hundreds were gathered to get a glimpse of him as he stepped off.

The rock legend was 42 when he performed a 90-minute show at the arena. His health had begun to deteriorate and he was overweight, but “not the bloated misshapen Humpty
Dumpty that rumor made him to be,” Mark Moran wrote in his review of the concert in the Press-Gazette.

Presley could still sing — a moving version of Paul Anka’s “My Way” was mentioned as a standout — but he wasn’t the famous showman of old. “Elvis is an overweight and slightly
frayed remnant of another time, another place,” Moran wrote.

Presley had twisted his ankle the night before. There was “no fabled pelvis,” just a “faint swivel of the hips.”

For fans, however, he was still “The King.” They threw roses, teddy bears and hats at his feet, and at least a few women made it up onstage before they were quickly hustled off by
security.

“It was a great night. I still remember it like it was yesterday,” said Romsos, now 70 and living in Sturgeon Bay. “There was nothing rowdy. It was just a lot of screaming. When he
shook, they just went wild. It was just like your heart was beating a mile a minute. It was fun. It was so fun.”

Presley reached out and grabbed Romsos’ hand as he moved across the stage, and she got one of the souvenir scarves he tossed to fans. That treasured memento was lost in a
house fire a few years later. The tickets she stood in line for nearly a day to get were spared, still safely tucked away in her purse.

Less than four months after he sold out Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena, Elvis Aaron Presley died of heart failure on August 16th at the young age of just 42.

Originating Source - Kendra Meinert  Green Bay Press-Gazette


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