About 2,000 people laid out blankets to watch musicians Kyle Park and multiplatinum, award-winning artist Tracy Lawrence perform Thursday at the newly renovated Hood Stadium.

Pepsico and the Ben Hogan Foundation sponsored by free two-day appreciation event for military families.

Park and Lawrence were the first outside entertainers to host a show at the new venue.

“It’s good to be in a position where we can not only show our appreciation for the soldiers but for their families,” Lawrence said. “Because they struggle a lot, too, being away from the ones they love and who are in harm’s way.”

Lawrence said both his father and father-in-law served, so performing for the military always means a lot to him.

Standing near the green room where the artists were snapping photos with fans, 19-year-old Larissa Massie traveled from Fort Campbell, Ky., to see Lawrence.

Her favorite song is “Paint me in Birmingham” because her dad played it when she was younger, Massie said.

With a group of two other girls, Massie was visiting her best friend, Shelby Schroeder, for spring break. Schroeder recently moved to Fort Hood with her family, and the concert was part of the friends’ reunion.

Closer to the stage, groups of soldiers and Defense Department civilians clustered before the concert.

“(The new stadium) looks good. It looks a lot better than the old one. ... The old one was basically a dirt field. There was no track, the bleachers weren’t as nice, it wasn’t as open, there was no concessions,” said Melissa Kates, concert attendee and civilian contractor.

Among the lawn chairs and picnic blankets, Rebekah and Keenan Mcaffee sat and relaxed while their three young children scampered around nearby, chasing each other around chairs before the show.

“I hope that they keep the ticket prices low, that way more families can still come,” said Rebekah Mcaffee, speaking of possible future concerts. “It can get expensive when you’ve got five people. Ten dollars a ticket would be 50 bucks for us.”

Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, deputy commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, said the post will welcome other events allowing soldiers and their families to get together.

But no future events are formally scheduled, officials said.

Contact Courtney Griffin at cgriffin@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7559

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