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Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 12:01 am

Hat trick

Boy gets star’s Stetson

There is no bigger fan of Brad Paisley in Springfield than 7-year-old Timmy Lynch.

Who else donned a cowboy hat and Wranglers on Halloween to go trick-or-treating as one the biggest stars in country music? When tickets went on sale for Paisley’s concert last week at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, Andrea Lynch, Timmy’s mother, bought a pair as quickly as she could. Meanwhile, Timmy went to work.

“Timmy told me from the day we got the tickets, ‘Mom, I’m going to meet him,’” Andrea Lynch recalls.

Timmy tried for a spot at an after-concert meet-and-greet through a contest sponsored by a Paisley fan club. Didn’t win. He also entered a contest sponsored by a radio station. Nope. When concert organizers announced that whoever brought the most food to help Illinois tornado victims would get to meet Paisley, Timmy scrambled hard, hitting up friends and family, and brought 237 pounds of food to the Nov. 21 concert. Someone else brought more than 600 pounds.

The evening of the show did not have an auspicious start.

Timmy and his mother were supposed to be seated in the back of the hall, near a small stage where Paisley and his band performed a handful of numbers to help ensure that folks in the cheap seats got their money’s worth. But it turned out that the seats that Andrea Lynch had purchased existed only on a seating chart.

“The convention center was wonderful,” Andrea Lynch recalls. “They said ‘We’re going to put you in a better seat.’”

Did they ever.

If you were at the concert, no matter where you sat, you couldn’t miss Timmy Lynch. He was the little boy perched on his mother’s shoulders at center stage just a few rows back. He wore a cowboy hat, just like his idol. Like Paisley, who played for nearly two hours, Timmy had no quit in him.

“He’s, like, 57 pounds,” Andrea Lynch says. “It was killing me. Thank God for this person sitting right in front of us. He put him on his shoulders for awhile.”

Throughout the show, Andrea Lynch was hoping for a smile, a nod, a wave – any kind of gesture from Paisley toward Timmy. It didn’t come until the very end.

As the final notes of the evening faded, Paisley tossed his cowboy hat toward Timmy, who was sitting piggyback on the shoulders of the man who had spelled his mother.

“He was actually trying to throw it at me,” Andrea Lynch recalls. “The gentleman who caught it, I don’t think he knew what was going on. He jumped up and caught it, and then Brad pointed at him and said ‘No, give it to him’ and pointed at Timmy.”

And so a boy’s dream came true.

After receiving the hat from the concertgoer who caught it, Andrea Lynch was a bit nervous as she and her son headed for the exit. What if someone tried to snatch the prize? Then someone reminded her about Paisley’s post-performance meet-and-greet on the lower level of the convention center. Perhaps Paisley would autograph the hat.

“I went up to a security guard and said ‘Will you take it down?’” Andrea Lynch recalls.

The security guard returned in a few minutes, hat, quite literally, in hand.

“He said ‘No, he wants to meet him,’” Andrea Lynch recalls.

Andrea Lynch told her son that he wouldn’t be able to wear the custom-made Stetson if Paisley signed it on the inner band, where it would rub away if the hat was worn. Paisley autographed the underside of the brim.

“Brad told him, ‘I’m going to sign it underneath so you can wear it true,’” Andrea Lynch says.

A week later, Springfield’s biggest Brad Paisley fan wears a flannel shirt every day. His mother has to take the hat away before he heads to school at St. Aloysius, where he is in the second grade. Call him the city’s most famous concertgoer, because this wasn’t the first time that Timmy has stolen a show.

When Timmy got tickets to Carrie Underwood’s concert last spring for his seventh birthday, he brought a bouquet to the show and managed to make his way to the stage.

“He handed them to her and she said ‘Thank you,’ and it was a big thank you,” Andrea Lynch says.

That was the first concert that Timmy had ever seen. The Paisley show was his second.

“He’s the luckiest kid I’ve ever seen,” his mother says. “I told him, ‘Timmy, you hit your concert prime at 7.’”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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