November 3, 2012 8:55:11 PM
STARKVILLE -- The weather warmed up a bit Friday, causing the vendors setting up tents in the Cotton District to sweat a little.
But as the temperature declined with the sun, the crowds came out and by the end of the night University Drive was shoulder to shoulder for nearly three blocks.
This is Bulldog Bash.
The self-proclaimed largest free concert in the state is only a part of the day-long event, but it is easily the biggest draw.
Every year, an estimated 35,000 people fill the one-way streets and brick alleyways that run off University Drive, the main strip of road leading to the campus of Mississippi State University.
Friday's event certainly was no different. Tyler Caldwell, a 23-year-old Delta State University grad, was in town for his second Bulldog Bash. Caldwell attended the 2010 Bulldog Bash, when two-time Grammy winner Jason Mraz headlined.
"Two years ago was great," Caldwell said. "But the production has definitely gone up, and it looks like they have figured out how to fit everything in much better.
"I think it has definitely improved as far as looking good."
Crews were out early Friday morning, working to set up a massive stage in the middle of University Drive to accommodate the five musical acts that would serve as entertainment later in the day.
Beverages and quick food were sold street-side starting at 3 p.m., to prevent overwhelming the small bars that dot the three-block area. The vendors did their best to accommodate the thousands of eager, parched throats.
MSU Battle of the Bands winner Surviving Alice, along with Andy Grammer, Gloriana, DJ Archnemisis and the event's headliner, the Eli Young Band, sent sounds resonating almost all the way downtown from 6 p.m. until past 11:30.
But the massive crowd stuck around long after the last note was played and the area wasn't completely vacated until well after 1 a.m.
This year's event was not without challenges, however. Just weeks before the event, the original head-liner act, Neon Trees, canceled its fall college tour, putting the MSU Student Association, who oversees the event, in a tight spot.
But Friday night's turnout proved that their work was not in vain, judging by the attendance and the enthusiasm, to elements which have become a staple of Bulldog Bash.