Milligan, Neb. – More than 2,000 fans braved the bitter cold in the tiny town of Milligan, Neb., on Saturday, Jan. 4 to watch country superstar Lee Brice perform at Pepsi’s first-ever “Get Hyped for Halftime” event in anticipation of Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2.
“I think there’s more people in this building than there is in the whole town,” Brice told FOX411 before taking the stage outside a local restaurant. He’s right; Milligan has a population of just 285 people.
“It is really cold here–this might be the coldest show I’ve ever done–I think it’s about 15 degrees and the wind’s howling, but it’s so crazy that all the folks in the town are hanging out and ready to rock!”
Brice, who was a lineman at Clemson University, was happy bring a little bit of Super Bowl glitz to the small farming community about 60 miles southwest of Lincoln.
“Heck, I’m a country artist, and Middle America– the halfway point between LA and New York– is right here in Milligan,” explained Brice. “It’s so cool to partner with Pepsi and bring a halftime show and good fun to a town like this.”
Brice’s concert was a surprise, and reps from Pepsi had everyone in the town–including the local high school marching band and cheerleaders–sworn to secrecy.
“Pepsi really kept it secret–I didn’t even know until a few days ago,” confessed Brice. “We were excited to come, so we kept it a secret, but then I realized that my name was on the back of my tour bus, so I had to duct tape it over!”
In December, the York High School students knew that they were rehearsing for something special, but did not know they would be performing with the Grammy-nominated artist behind hits like “A Woman Like You,” “Hard to Love,” and “I Drive Your Truck.”
To open the concert, 70 members of the York High School marching band–temporarily rechristened the “Pepsi Hype Squad”–strutted down the main street, playing the school’s fight song. The teens ended the performance with a formation of a facsimile of a Pepsi bottle.
“The marching band and the cheerleaders all got new uniforms,” Brice said of the teens’ new soft drink-sponsored wardrobes. “They’re busting out of Pepsi trucks and they’re running around the town.”
In keeping with the heartland atmosphere, Brice spent some time getting to know the locals in the community.
“I’ve met some of the townspeople. I’ve met the mayor. I’ve met the butcher. I’ve met Ellen, the bartender who’s had a bar for 45 years. We’ve met the whole town, and everybody’s been so sweet,” Brice said. “Everyone’s been having such a good time here, getting hyped up for halftime.”
Brice plans on watching the halftime at home in Nashville with his brother, his bandmates, his wife, Sarah, sons Takoda, 5, and Ryker, who turned 1 on Saturday.
“I’ll be watchin’ it and cookin’ me some famous big country-country chili on Super Bowl Sunday,” he said. “For my chili, I like to do venison sausage, home-grown stuff. It’s a thick chili, a meaty, hearty Manwich chili.”
And after spending the day out in the freezing cold, Brice had some advice for Bruno Mars when he takes the stage at the Super Bowl for the first cold-weather, outdoor game in history.
“I know it’s going to be cold when he plays the halftime show in New Jersey,” laughed Brice. “Maybe not quite this cold, but he may have to chop some gloves up and expose his fingertips so that he can play guitar!”