Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
Not everyone who lives in Columbus, including myself, can say he or she is a true Ohioan. Until Saturday night, the country musicians of Rascal Flatts could not collectively make that claim either.
Rascal Flatts’ lead singer, Gary LeVox, and bassist Jay DeMarcus are both Columbus natives, but guitarist Joe Don Rooney doesn’t hail from the Buckeye State.
Before the band’s Saturday concert at Nationwide Arena, Ohio first lady Karen Kasich gave honorary Ohio residency to Rooney for the day, according to a press release, making the group an all-Ohio band for the first time.
In a meeting backstage, the first lady arrived before the band. David Redelberger, the director of interactive marketing at Nationwide Arena, said that because LeVox and DeMarcus are both from Columbus, they had a hard time making it more than a few feet in the city before running into a cousin or old friend.
Once the band made it to the room, Kasich presented the honorary title to Rooney. She said Ohio had always considered him one of its own, but now it would be official.
In addition to a certificate, Kasich presented Rooney with a buckeye necklace and chocolate buckeyes for the entire band. LeVox and DeMarcus joked that Oklahoma, where Rooney was raised, had never been as hospitable.
After a few more jokes were exchanged, including poking fun at old high school rivalries between Olentangy High School, where LeVox attended, and Upper Arlington High School, where Kasich attended, the band went to prepare for its performance. Kasich made sure to slip in a song request that she and her daughters had missed at the last Rascal Flatts concert they’d attended.
So over the weekend, Columbus could officially claim Rascal Flatts completely as its own, but only for a day.