By Tim Leeds
Mitchell John packed the bleachers in the Great Northern Fairground's Bigger Better Barn Wednesday night during a benefit concert for Havre's fledgling CASA program.
John had to perform without his tour band at the show, because his band's bus had broken down shortly out of Salt Lake City en route to Havre They decided it would be better for them to travel to Washington, D.C., for this Sunday's performance for the national Court Appointed Special Advocate convention.
John said everyone told him he should just cancel the Havre show and head towards Sunday's performance. He said he wouldn't do that.
John said he has never missed a performance on any of his tours and wasn't going to start with a benefit for Havre's new CASA program. He played guitar and sang while recordings of his studio musicians were played over the sound system. The audience gave heavy applause for every song he played.
They also hear a premier at the show. John's 8-year-old daughter Mikensi Romersa did her first concert performance with her father at the show.
John was surprised by an unplanned "intermission" to sell tickets for a raffle at the concert. The winner of the raffle received 40 percent, CASA received 40 percent, and the Havre Wrestling club received 20 percent.
"I didn't know about this," John, a native of Red Lodge, said. "We could only do this in Montana."
He then told the audience that he would keep playing during the intermission.
"Once you get going, you don't want to quit," he said.
Later in the concert he walked the 40 or more feet from the stage over to the bleachers while he played, often leaning in with the audience in the first row and shaking hands.
John said he was impressed by people of Havre.
"This was a great, great, great crowd tonight," he said, "just super people. I thought they were great."
John said he was pleased with more than just the concert crowd.
"The whole town impressed me," he said. "Scott (Young) at Norman's was really good to me. I think CASA's in really good hands with Melissa (Jamieson.)"
Norman's Ranch and Sportswear was one of the sponsors of the benefit concert. Other sponsors included KPQX Radio, Jamieson Motors and the TownHouse Inns of Havre.
Jamieson, a trained advocate in the CASA program, is working to start the program in Havre, to initially serve Hill and Chouteau counties. Portions of the proceeds from album and memorabilia sales at the free-admission concert go to help start the children's advocacy program in Havre.
The CASA program, also known as Volunteer Guardians Ad Litem and Voices for Children, works to place trained advocates with abused or neglected children, making sure they receive the best and most appropriate treatment while they are involved in the court system.
John said it's really exciting to be a part of something like this. He said in a previous interview that it makes him feel like his music is worth something extra to play it for a worthy cause like CASA.
John said it's especially exciting to be part of starting a new program in Havre. He said he's proud to be able to give it an extra jump start with his concert.
He said this is the first time he's ever done benefits for CASA, with Havre early in about 80 performances. He said his show in Las Vegas will even be a benefit for the volunteer advocacy program.
John said his goal is to increase awareness and understanding of the program. He said the more than 42,000 volunteers currently in the program, which has more than 900 programs across the nation, are not enough. He said he hopes to decrease the number of volunteers still needed with his benefit concerts.