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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.

Marsha Gilford, Smith's public relations spokeswoman, said Monday that there were enough problems that Smith'sTix has decided to change the process of distributing tickets.

Beginning Wednesday for the second wave, the wristbands will be passed out to everyone who wants a wristband, not just the first 100 people. On Jan. 14 at 6:15 a.m., a number between 1 and the number of wristbands that were passed out at the given store will be drawn, and the people with the next 100 numbers will receive four tickets to a second wave evening. This will be the same process for the third wave.

Another new policy is that tickets will only be given to the 100 people at each store for each wave. All of the tickets left over after the initial giveaway will be distributed after Jan. 15 in a way Smith'sTix will announce at a later date.

Gilford said the response to the first wave was more than they were counting on and that this new way will ensure that everyone has the same fair chance while store owners will not have to worry about crowds of people blocking their entrances.

Earlier Monday, 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.

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.

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