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Free tickets a lure

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Utahns lined up in the wee hours at various Smith's stores around the state Monday morning in hopes of getting a wristband that would ensure them four tickets to the Olympic Medals Plaza ceremonies and entertainment.

Wristbands were passed out to get tickets to the first "wave" of acts at the Medals Plaza. The concerts in the first wave are Dave Matthews Band, Foo Fighters, Barenaked Ladies, Macy Gray and one act yet to be announced.

At the Smith's on 900 South and 900 East in Salt Lake City, beanbags, sleeping bags and plenty of bleary-eyed people waited in a line that twisted around the sidewalk surrounding the store.

Brandon Ralston and his friends plunked themselves down at the store at midnight for the chance to see the Dave Matthews Band.

"Last time the Dave Matthews Band was in town, it cost $65 for tickets," Ralston said. "It's cool to be a part of the Olympics, and we can't afford to go to anything else at the Olympics, but to be honest, this is all about seeing Dave Matthews."

To keep a little order, Ralston made his own little tickets on scrap paper numbering up to 100 and passed them out to the people behind him in line. He said too often people like to show up late and try to squeeze in the middle of the line. "As long as you take care of whoever is in front and in back of you, it all works out," Ralston said.

In Provo, things were not going quite as smoothly.

"We were told (by phone Sunday night) to wait in our cars and the line on the sidewalk wouldn't be an official line. Now we're told it is, but we're not in it," Marva Spresser said.

Jamie Tilson said it's unfair to tell some customers one thing and then change the rules. "We've been here since 2 a.m.," she said. "We've wasted our time."

Most of the customers inside the Provo Smith's store were unhappy, tired and frustrated, disillusioned with the process.

A sign posted on the counter in Provo said not only did those wanting wristbands need to wait until 10 a.m. to begin getting the wristbands, but if they waited inside the store, it would be loitering.

Marsha Gilford, Smith's public relations spokeswoman, said this is the first time Smith'sTix has been asked to distribute tickets for a free event involving so many big names.

"You can appreciate the fact that when they're free, you're going to see a huge response," Gilford said. "People want to just be a part of the events, experience the thrill, the success of those who've earned medals."

Gilford said input will be taken after Monday's distribution and changes made to smooth out the process for the Wednesday and Friday giveaways.

Not everyone in line Monday was just there for the bands. Sandae Bonare of Salt Lake City said the bands are nice, but she is more excited by the prospect of being there when they award the medals.

"You can see a band anytime," Bonare said. "I just want to be a part of the Olympic fun."

With her spot at the back of the line, Bonare said she knew her chances were slim to get a wristband but she was sticking it out for her family.

"I'm a medical volunteer for the Olympics, so I get one Medals Plaza ticket, but I'm trying to get tickets in order to bring the whole family," Bonare said. "I'm not surprised to see the lines. Here in Utah, people camp out for a spot to see the parade."

For those who did not get wristbands, Smith'sTix general manager Deirdre Hill said people can still show up Thursday morning at 7 a.m. to possibly get tickets for the first wave, but people with wristbands get first priority.

The next wave of tickets is available Jan. 14 at 7 a.m. with the wristbands available Wednesday at 10 a.m. The third wave of tickets will be available Jan. 15 at 7 a.m. with the wristbands available Friday at 10 a.m.


E-MAIL: pthunell@desnews.com and haddoc@desnews.com