Eric Church in Green Bay: Surprise parking lot visits, food truck tacos and quick trip to Iowa

Kendra Meinert
Green Bay Press-Gazette
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Country music’s “Desperate Man” was a busy man during his weekend in Green Bay.

In between playing back-to-back, sold-out, three-hour concerts to crowds of 8,000-plus both Friday and Saturday nights at the Resch Center on his Double Down Tour (whew), Eric Church flew to Iowa Saturday morning to be the celebrity guest picker on ESPN’s “College GameDay” live pregame show, flew back to Green Bay and still found time to ride around town surprising fans just a couple of hours before his second show.

When it was all over on Saturday night, he and his family, along with the crew and band, grabbed a late-night dinner from the Taste of Ethiopia food truck.

Here’s a rundown of some of the fan fun and behind-the-scenes action that went down when Church was in town. Let's just say there’s a reason they call him “Chief.”

Eric Church performs during his Double Down tour stop at the Resch Center on Sept. 13, 2019, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

'People were in shock' when he pulled up

Natalie Tweten was outside of the Quality Inn on Holmgren Way around 6:40 p.m. Saturday when an unmarked car pulled in the lot. A camera man got out, followed by somebody she thought might be Church. The kindergarten teacher from Rochester, Minnesota, is a big fan, so she was quick to spot him. So were about 10 other people. Church spent a few minutes talking to all of them, posed for photos and handed out a couple of wristbands for pit access near the stage for that night’s show, and then he was gone.

“People were in shock that he randomly pulled in and started mingling with everyone. Lots of excitement, smiles and selfies,” said Tweten, who was in Green Bay to catch the Vikings-Packers game Sunday at Lambeau Field. “It was a wonderful surprise to have him pull up randomly. It just added to my already amazing weekend.”

She didn’t have tickets to either of his Green Bay shows, but someday she expects she’ll see him in concert. She already has the meet and greet checked off her list.

Church posted a video from “Somewhere in Green Bay, Wisconsin” that shows him in a camouflage visor, black hoodie and jeans as he walks out from the tour bus staging area behind the Resch and hops in a car, his grin as big as those on the faces of some of the fans he surprised. “I’m Eric,” he says to one little girl, pointing to his image on her concert T-shirt. “I’m that guy.”

Church has a habit of surprising his fans when he’s out on the road. In Greensboro, North Carolina, earlier this year, he showed up in a packed arena concourse just before doors opened for the show. In June, he made the rounds at a campground near the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington, to play cornhole.

Church's tour had a treat for Taste of Ethiopia 

The Double Down Tour travels with its own crew to feed everyone out on the road, but they also like to work local cuisine in the mix. Enter Taste of Ethiopia.

The Green Bay food truck was asked by the tour to set up behind the Resch Center on Saturday night so the band, truck drivers, crew and everyone with the tour could order off the Ethiopian-American fusion menu when the show was over around 11:30 p.m. Pat Joyce and his staff ended up feeding about 80 people, including Church.

“We didn’t get to meet him in person, but his assistant came and got a bunch of tacos. He was on the bus chowing down on those with his wife and kids,” Joyce said.

The view from the Taste of Ethiopia food truck on Saturday night shows Eric Church's tour buses outside the Resch Center. The non-profit food truck fed Church's entire crew and band before they hit the road.

All profits from the truck go to the nonprofit Pay It Forward/Ethiopia Inc. organization Joyce founded to help fund ministry work in the African country.

RELATED: Taste of Ethiopia spices up the Green Bay food truck scene

Joyce, along with Sarah and Matthew Hardy and Taylor Jenss (all Church fans), arrived about 9 p.m. to set up near the tour bus area at the Resch. Once they were ready to roll, The person in charge of Church’s food services asked if they would like to catch a few songs of the show before it was time to serve. He cautioned them that because the show was sold out, Church would look like a speck onstage from their vantage point. He gave everyone a pass and led them in.

“I could see where he was going right from the beginning,” Joyce said. “The other guys thought we were going to be climbing up to the top. He brought us literally right underneath the stage, and for five songs, they were right underneath this guy. He was looking and waving at them. They were just on cloud nine for the rest of the night. It was very cool.” 

Yep, that tour person was just messin’ with them about the whole speck thing in order to surprise them.

Joyce was impressed with how friendly” everyone with the tour was — he chatted with many of the truck drivers — and what a well-oiled machine the huge production is.

“It was just amazing that they got 19 53-foot trailers in and out of there between 11:30 p.m. and 3:30 in the morning. By 3:30 a.m. everybody was gone. Every truck was gone. We were the last ones out of there,” said Joyce, who didn’t get to bed until 5 a.m.

The next day he had an email from Church’s catering person, telling him how much everyone loved Taste of Ethiopia’s food and thanking them for doing it.

“All around, it was just a really classy deal,” Joyce said of the experience. “We felt pretty special to be picked to do it.”

Five-year-old Aubree Taggart, of Oshkosh, has some pre-show fun with Y100 on-air personality Kyle "The Big" Lewandowski before the Eric Church concert Friday night at the Resch Center. Church signed her boot during the concert.

These little pink boots were made for signing 

You might say Cindy and Matt Treder are regular Church-goers. Or as Cindy likes to put it, “This isn’t our first rodeo.”

The Oshkosh couple have caught 26 shows on the Double Down Tour since it launched in January. They’re aiming to hit 30 before the year is up.

They weren’t just at both of his Resch Center shows. They were front row at both of his Resch Center shows. 

RELATED: Eric Church delivers one wild night at Resch on Double Down Tour

It’s what they do. Instead of taking extravagant vacations, they road trip around the country to see artists they like, and Church is at the top of the list. Cindy has become such a fixture at his shows, that Church often gives her a thumbs-up or blows her a kiss when he spots her with one of her signs. He autographed one in St. Louis and signed her banner at the Resch.

“Out of the thousands of people, to get that special moment, I mean you just can’t even put it into words what that means. It just makes me love him all the more,” Cindy said. “I just can’t say enough about him. He’s just Eric Church.”

On Friday night, the Treders introduced their 5-year-old granddaughter, Aubree Taggart, to the thrill of a Church concert, and she’s following right in her grandma’s footsteps 

Aubree was the little girl in the pink cowboy hat, pink boots with Disney princesses on them and a pink sign that read “My Very First Eric Church Concert.” It's easy to see how she caught Church’s eye from the the stage when he sang “These Boots,” a song that inspires his concert crowds to take off a boot and hoist it in the air.

Church got his hands on Aubree’s boot, showed it on the video screens and then signed it. Fans sitting behind Aubree and her parents, Em Schumacher and Josh Taggart, of Oshkosh, in the first row of the mezzanine captured the moment on video.

“Eric couldn’t have loved her anymore. Between him and the security and Eric’s people, they were so good to her. She got a pick. She was offered to go into the pit. Eric signed her boot,” Cindy said. “He loves kids, and he’s just so incredibly good to his fans.”

Aubree, who warmed up before the show by dancing to “Baby Shark” at Anduzzi’s Sports Club, couldn't stop talking about him when she got back to their hotel room. She’s wondering when they can go see him again.

She has the right Grandma and Grandpa for that.

From Green Bay to Iowa to Green Bay in one day

Before some Church fans were even out of bed the morning after his Friday show, the headliner was already in Ames, Iowa, talking football on ESPN’s “College GameDay” broadcast outside Jack Trice Stadium for Iowa State’s game against Iowa. 

So much for those song lyrics about how “Jack Daniel's kicked my ass again last night.”

The show aired from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday, with Church making his picks near the end. He presumably flew down the morning of by private plane, coming off a Resch show that didn’t end until close to midnight the night before and did indeed include several shots of Jack Daniel's. 

It was “College GameDay’s” first visit to Iowa State, but the third time he has been tapped as guest picker.

Church, who had his sons, Boone, 7, and Hawk, 4, with him in Green Bay, flew back and did it all over again Saturday night. 

Surrounded by fans in the pit to sing “Springsteen” near the end of his show on Friday, Church thanked the fans for coming. “As always, one of my favorite places and my favorite people.”

Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert

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