By Caleb Sebora
WINSTED, MN It was something that only happens in dreams.
Winstock is normally the place where big time meets small town. However, this year, Winstock was a little bit different - Winstock was where small town met big time; where small town went big time, at least for a little while.
Thomas Rhett was onstage at Winstock Saturday, June 11 when Dave Matter caught his eye.
“He glanced at me, but it was longer than normal,” Matter recalled. “I thought it was a little strange, but didn’t really think anything of it.”
Rhett, a 2015 Country Music Awards “new artist of the year” nominee, continued with his set after that glance at Matter, singing his hit songs, like “Die a Happy Man,” and “Crash and Burn.” Soon enough, however, during one of his songs, he turned back over to Matter and gave him a thumbs up.
When the song was over, Rhett announced that he was going to be doing a cover of the Garth Brooks song “Friends in Low Places,” which he then began to sing. However, when it came time for the third verse, Rhett stopped singing and said that he needed someone from the crowd to come up on the stage and help him sing it and that he already had that person picked out.
“I knew it was me,” Matter said. “And then he pointed his microphone right at me.”
So, Matter got up and walked on stage with the crowd cheering and screaming.
Matter, however, is not a singer at least not publically. He is the owner of Matter Excavating LLC based in Watertown, where he lives.
“I had always thought and wondered what it would be like to get up on a stage like that, but I never thought it would really happen,” Matter said. “But when he pointed at me, I thought ‘Here’s my chance for two minutes on stage.’” So he took it.
Rhett asked Matter some questions, such as his name and where he was from, and then asked Matter to start singing with him.
“I tried not to focus on the crowd,” Matter recollected. And together, the pair sang the third verse of the Garth Brooks song, the crowd cheering and singing along.
“I was told many years ago to sing like no one’s listening so that’s what I did.” And when it was time for the finale, to hit a very high note to end the song, the crowd erupted.
“I heard the roar of the crowd and couldn’t believe it. Everyone was chanting ‘Dave! Dave! Dave!’”
“After the song was over, Rhett asked me ‘Do you sing?’ and the stagehands backstage said that that was the best anyone had ever done,” Matter recalled with a smile.
Afterwards, Matter became a celebrity in his own right. “I had no less than 15 handshakes and 20 hugs as I made my way back to my seat, and I had many, many people take photos with me.”
Even though Winstock is over, it hasn’t really ended for Matter. “We’ve had phone calls, my kids have gotten emails and text messages, it’s on Facebook.” People come up and ask him about it, what it was like. Some people even joke about him being a real big celebrity and having no time to talk anymore, since he’s famous.
“It was very humbling,” Matter said. “I can’t thank Thomas Rhett enough. He’s not just a great singer, but a great entertainer. I still haven’t figured out why a young singer like him picks a 67-year-old guy like me.”
For Matter, who has been attending Winstock ever since it was created 23 years ago, Winstock 2016 will always hold a special place in his heart. “It’s one of the top highlights of my life. Behind my marriage, my children, and my business, going up on that stage is one of the top highlights.”
And so, this year at Winstock, small town went big time, at least for a little while.