Twenty Years of Panic

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Lee Hartle holds his surprise anniversary gift, Widespread Panic in the Streets of Athens, Georgia, at the Grand Canyon.

Last week we launched Widespread Panic in the Streets of Athens, Georgia by Gordon Lamb (see the slideshow of pics from the launch from yesterday’s Short Takes ). We’ve talked to so many Athenians since this project began with their own special stories about how this historic concert figured into their lives. Usually it was for the better, but occasionally it’s a little more complicated. Diana and Lee Hartle’s story encompasses all of the above. Diana recently sent us this note about that day twenty years ago, which touched us so much we wanted to post for everyone to read. So, with their permission, today we’re posting her and Lee’s story .

On April 18, 1998, I married my soulmate in Athens, GA. Soon after our engagement a year earlier, we heard the announcement that Widespread Panic would be playing FOR FREE the same day as our wedding. My husband was thrilled—we’d be able to see one of his favorite bands as part of our post-wedding celebration. I, on the other hand, was less than enthused.

“Come on,” he quipped “we can wear our wedding outfits and party with all our friends in the streets of the town we love!”

“But my dress will get dirty,” I replied.

Looking back at that time, I honestly wish I had just given in and celebrated on the streets of Athens with my new husband. Where would I ever wear my wedding dress again? Yet I stubbornly insisted that we should begin our honeymoon by catching the red eye to San Francisco, so that’s what we did.

Having the biggest rock concert occur in the town you’re getting married in comes with a host of logistical nightmares. Normal wedding planning was now amplified: hotel blocks were now a bit iffy, parking for our on-campus wedding was no longer guaranteed, the rehearsal dinner planned in downtown the night before now needed extra planning to ensure a smooth event. We happily handled the extra planning, as we now had friends from across the country who hadn’t planned on coming change their minds since our wedding would now include an historical concert featuring a band they loved. Concurrently with our wedding planning, another couple faced similar issues, only more intensified since their wedding was planned for a downtown location and would be directly impacted by the concert. Their planning woes made many of the local papers, and adjustments to the concert were made as concessions to their planning. Many of our friends and acquaintances felt a bit of anger about adjustments being made to the show to accommodate this other couple’s wedding. Meeting new people around town would inevitably lead to talk of our upcoming wedding. When we mentioned the date, we would always follow up with “We’re not that couple.”

Twenty years later, we are celebrating by taking our two fur kids—Flint & Hazel—across the country to the Grand Canyon. Our marriage has had its ups and downs, highs and lows, but reaching the twenty-year mark comes with a stability, and an abiding sense of comfort. To think it all began on that fateful day when Panic played the streets of our beloved hometown seems unfathomable, but here we are—a bit greyer, with a few more wrinkles, but happy to be where we are. While we may regret that we weren’t there for the big event, we rejoice today that we can experience it in the pages of Gordon Lamb’s new book. Thank you, UGA Press, for giving us this anniversary gift.

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