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Teen queen Spears reigns at State Fair

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Let's talk hot.

Hers was the first record released in 1999 to debut at Billboard's top spot. Her first single from the debut album also hit No. 1 in its first week. She's sold some 5 million records since January.And let's not forget that Lolita-esque photo spread in Rolling Stone.

If that makes you hot, then Britney Spears is, well, a hottie.

Just ask the 5,000 screaming fans who were lucky enough to snap up tickets to the 17-year-old's flashy and funky concert Friday at the Utah State Fair.

"We love her. She's perfect," sighed Jessica Leventhal, a 15-year-old student at Brighton High School. Clad in a pleated, plaid miniskirt and hair in pony tails, Leventhal effected the school-uniform look Spears has made popular.

Yes, that's right, Spears was at the state fair. No, not the Delta Center. Not the E Center. The fair.

A stone's throw from prize-winning hogs and canned beets, Spears, the toast of the Teen Beat set, the latest pop icon to pose with a milk mustache, whose performance Thursday on MTV's Music Video Awards was broadcast live to millions worldwide, came to the Beehive State's fall fair.

Utah's fair has attracted top talent before. Last year, event organizers booked N'Sync, who, along with the Backstreet Boys, are credited with reviving teen-pop mania. That show sold out inabout a week.

But Spears, whose videos for the songs "Sometimes," and "Crazy" are mainstays on MTV's daily countdown, is the first to sell out in one day, said Donna Dahl, fair director.

"We were totally taken aback by that," Dahl said. "It's the teenage thing this year."

Spears is one of 11 grandstands acts at the fair. Diamond Rio, Deanna Carter and Toto are among the other artists who will appear. Advance tickets went on sale July 26.

By mid-afternoon that day, tickets for Great Britney were gone.

Amanda Martinez, 15, waited on the phone for an hour and a half to buy tickets. Fourteen-year-olds Noelle Jones and Chelcee Leprey slept at the Fairpark the night before tickets went on sale.

Spears' teen queen status begs the question: How did the state fair, which doesn't boast a huge budget to attract big-name talent, bring in one of Hollywood's most-sought-after acts?

Dahl's answer is simple: a little good timing and loads of good luck.

A year ago, the fair's booking agent found the former member of the Mickey Mouse club right after she had completed a tour of America's malls and was putting the finishing touches on her No. 1 album, ". . . Baby One More Time."

She looked promising so they booked her. Little did they know her star would rise so high, so fast.

"It works for you if you're clever enough to figure out who is going to be big," Dahl said with a laugh. "I've got grandchildren who can't hardly wait. Of course, I was the first in line (for tickets)."

But the fledgling diva's handlers haven't been easy to handle.

"They haven't been all that cooperative," Dahl said.

She added that the fair's directors didn't know if they would be allowed backstage, no time was set aside for press interviews and her managers have clamped down on professional photographers snapping shots of Miss Britney.

A few fans, no matter how avid, had to admit that Spears' time in the spotlight may not last long. "She'll get older and people will lose interest," Jones said.

"I really hope she'll be around," Leventhal said. "But I think she'll be more like Paula Abdul, you know. Everyone will still like her and remember her but she won't still be big, like Madonna."

Despite some controversy over Spears' midrif-baring outfits and rumors she's had breast-augmentation surgery, parents like Julie Haney approve of her daughter Toni's affection for Spears.

She accompanied her daughter and niece, Ashley Gutierrez, to the concert.

"Some others you question, but she's a good dancer and a good singer. They try to dance like her," she said. "I think she's really good role model."

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