New Kids' infamous 1989 concert still haunts fans
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It should have stood for years as the biggest concert in Valley history. A crowd of 11,000 rabid fans waited hours under the summer sun at Mission park. A whole generation of young girls clamored to see New Kids on the Block - the world's hottest band and, for most of the generation, a living dream.Instead, the show became a nightmare. History paints a terrifying picture. According to Monitor archives, a police account and the crushed memories of the now-grown young women, a near-riot exploded that day, July 3, 1989, at the annual Fajita Cook Off. More than 100 people suffered cuts, bruises and heat exhaustion. Police officers, the entire Mission Fire Department and scores of ambulances flooded the Catholic War Veteran's Park. Paramedics rushed 39 people to area hospitals, and emergency workers treated 79 others for injuries at the scene, The Monitor reported. Mission police Lt. Tony Garcia, who headed up the security detail that day, described it as the largest out-of-control crowd he has ever seen. We were trying to keep them back, we were trying to," Garcia said recently. "People just went nuts. Crushingpeople, pushing people. They just stopped it because they were getting out of hand."
After part of a song, New Kids on the Block fled the stage. The crowd broke the chain link fence protecting the stage. And the concert died. It was a common scene across the country at the time, said Christopher Julian, who booked the event. The guys would visit a new city, and the fans would control. "At every outdoor concert they'd done before, the same thing happened," he says looking back at the day that frightened him into a 10-year hiatus from the cook-off. "One of the boys wouldn't come out of the trailer because he said he didn't want to see kids get hurt anymore."
Fans remember the tears they shed. The United States' original boy band had left them, seemingly forever. On Saturday, they will return. And as the concert approaches, the fans remember the excitement, the adoration and thechaos.
The concert and the pushing started, and Mary Lou Garza's 14-year-old sister and 13-year-old cousin disappeared. As throngs of fans surged toward the stage, the then 19-year-old Garza remembers searching frantically for her younger relatives. Amid the crushing July heat, she spent an hour scouring the grounds for the girls. Were they hurt? Had they been crushed?
No. Garza, now 39, found the girls safe at the front of the stage, suffering only from a pair of broken hearts. They headed home, crestfallen. The next day, the family heard an apology on the radio, a small consolation for shattered dreams.
"It took all week to recover," she says now. "Even for me, who was 19 at the time. We were crying, ‘we wanted to see them!' We kept thinking they'd come back to do another concert, but no. They took 20 years." Garza has already bought her tickets to Saturday's show.
Patty Garcia woke early that day 20 years ago. She spent the night at her best friend's house, struggling to contain her excitement. The girls arrived at the Fajita Cook-Off at 3 p.m., and the then 13-year-old Garcia fought through the crowd to the front of the stage.s the vast swarm of people grew, Garcia tumbled toward the back. Pushed by larger fans, she settled near the sound board, barely able to see. "When they came out, I couldn't see them at all," she says now. "All of a sudden, the music stopped. I heard someone say, ‘everybody move back.' But people kept pushing." Then they were gone. She broke down sobbing. "I just couldn't even speak, I was crying so hard," Garcia says. With time, she felt a little better, and her love for the band remained strong. She has even traveled to see them a handful of times. The proud owner of all their cassettes, magazines, posters, buttons and an estimated 17 shirts (she has lost count), Garcia never forgot that day. And she will travel Saturday to Hidalgo, older, wiser and just as rabid for New Kids on the Block.
Stephanie Crabtree stood in the hot sun for hours with her mother and younger brother. Crabtree was 10 at the time. Growing up in San Juan, she covered her wall with New Kids on the Block photos, magazine articles and paraphernalia. She sported large buttons and hats. She watched the cartoon. Her favorite was Jordan. On that July day in Mission, she waited, waited, waited. Part of a song played. The crowd erupted. The boy band hustled away.Then the tears started. Crabtree cried as her mother tried to comfort her. And over the years, she never got over the heart break. She grew up, started her own business selling things on E-Bay, and raised a 13 year old daughter. But she never forgot her first love. "Every time a new boy band would come up, N'Sync, Backstreet Boys, they never compared to New Kids on the Block," she says. Then she heard they were coming back. Crabtree says she freaked out. Her childhood dream would come true. She would drop everything to see the band, admitting her love borders on obsessive. "I don't know what it is. It's probably just the first crush," she says. "I just always hoped that I would have a chance to see them. I never got that chance when I was a kid, and it was just really exciting. It's my childhood dream."