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Legions of smiley Salt Lake fans cheer Hannah Montana

First off, no serious fan of Hannah Montana ever wears a bandanna.

"Uh, NO," a flock of girls/fans respond in unison when asked if Ms. Montana is a cowgirl. "NO!" the four say again. Neither dirt nor livestock has been trucked in for the show. It's not at all like the Days of '47 rodeo.

"She's just amazingly awesome singer and dresser," one girl says, clearly amazed that someone could be so awesomely unhip to connect Ms. Montana with cattle or ranches or the Big Sky state or somebody called Hannah from Montana.

"No, for the third time, that's not her name and that's not one of her songs," says 11-year-old Kesli Curtis from West Point as she hops, twirls and fidgets in line before Friday night's Hannah Montana concert at EnergySolutions Arena. The event, according to her mom who paid $510 for four tickets, has had them more excited than Christmas.

"It's not quite like herding cats keeping track of them," said Janene Curtis, who with fellow mom Angie Fisher were hosting the girls night out. (Dinner was salads at The Gateway.)

"We just keep counting heads and making sure we're still together," adding that she had brought along 12-year-old son Brandon — one of the noticeably few boys in the crowd. "To help chaperon, although he's mostly checking out girls."

He did his best to appear cool and collected and completely disinterested in the concert, or ever having even once watched Montana's daily television show. Until Kesli busted him by noting that, "Oh, yes, he does watch. Sometimes twice a day."

The "Hanna Montana" TV show is broadcast almost as often as "M*A*S*H" was. Her real name is Miley (pronounced like smiley because she smiles so much) Cyrus, 14-year-old daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus of "Achy, Breaky Heart" fame. She's not from Montana but from Disneyland by way of Tennessee. She may have nothing to do with Big Sky, but she is big time: A road trip requires 13 full-size semitrucks and 14 luxury motor homes.

Hannah Montana on television is chirpy-average-girl-at-school by day and mega-watt-pop-star by night. But only her family and closest friends know of her dual identity. The show has amassed 5.4 million viewers in 18 months, an audience and response to a sitcom that Disney Channel Entertainment calls "beyond our wildest expectations."

It's the kind of phenomenon that creates markets — clothing jewelry, apparel, dolls — at select stores — and concert ticket scalpers. A few were on hand Friday evening, although finding few takers for a show that people other places — usually on the Internet — have paid as much as $2,000 to see.

Tickets were reportedly sold out for the two-night Salt Lake engagement in about six minutes. Gary Boslough said that's the message he received after trying several times to buy four tickets. He ultimately managed just two at $50 each.

"This is actually better because I don't have to go in," Boslough said. "We'll just go get dinner."

Several hundred kids who had no chance of going in came downtown "just to be here," as Sarah Demes said. She had come with her dad and brother in hopes of scoring free tickets being given away for the show.

But Friday's show was already in the bag. In their father's pocket, actually. He lives in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and was in town for a visit.

Enraptured is probably the most accurate way of describing the reaction of his 11- and 7-year-old. As all three submerged into the stream of fans, the kids were thanking dad with promises of model child behavior: "For a year at least, at least a year."


E-mail: jthalman@desnews.com