PEORIA (WEEK) -- Thursday was the first day of Tailgate N' Tallboys 2021, and thousands of eager concertgoers were more than ready to enjoy a live music experience.
"This is my first concert since like 2019? Yeah, February 2019 is the last time I've been anywhere," concertgoers Mary Kate Hansen and Zoe Miller said.
"It's gonna be a great time. You know, great venue, a lot of people out here tonight. It's gonna be a great time for sure," concertgoer Logan Wolf said.
Venue hosts say they expect an average of 16,000 people per day to attend this year's festivities, and that is not including the dozens who waited until the last minute to buy their tickets.
"All my friends told me, 'oh, it's gonna canceled, it's gonna get canceled.' I'm just happy that we're here… Honestly, anyone could be playing and I'd be happy. It's a beautiful day too - so pretty out," Hansen said.
Event coordinators say they widened the venue grounds this year, which makes for more elbow room and helps encourage social distancing.
"It's an awesome experience. To get everybody out here who loves country music. I'm so excited for everybody to be out here - it's gonna be a great time, no doubt about that," Wolf said.
While some only planned to attend day one, others have their three-day passes ready to go for a full weekend of music, food and festivities.
"It feels like I'm free … Yeah, it's really nice. After a whole year, I feel really happy for the artists too, and for us to just be here," concertgoers Macie Lucas and Kaylee Raucci said.
A negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination is not required to enter the venue, and the festival is set to resume Friday with headliner Sam Hunt.