Venice Flomm walked out of the Montana Pavilion Saturday morning a happy woman.
Flomm, a recent transplant to Billings, won the wristband lottery, putting her first in line to buy tickets to the April 10 Elton John concert. She bought four front-row seats and four seats a little farther back.
She said she wanted to leave some of the front-row seats for others.
More than 600 people stood in a winding line for the chance to buy tickets to see the Rocket Man, who will headline the second event in the renovated MetraPark arena, just after Women of Faith.
A total of 9,399 tickets sold out in two hours, said Sue DeVries, MetraPark assistant general manager. Seventy percent went to Internet buyers and the other 30 percent were sold at the Pavilion, other local outlets and by phone.
She acknowledged that some people trying to buy tickets online might have been frustrated.
"There were 7,000 people all trying to get online at 10 o'clock," she said, and that likely slowed the process.
DeVries said Metra officials talked with the concert promoter and Elton John's agent to hold back the 30 percent of the tickets to sell locally. That allowed more Billings-area people to buy them.
"If we hadn't done that, the tickets probably would have been sold out in half an hour," DeVries said.
A jovial atmosphere pervaded the Pavilion as people waited to find out their place in line. Flomm's wristband number was picked at 9 a.m., and then a MetraPark official, using a microphone, started lining up the sequential number holders in back of Flomm.
A row of MetraPark cashiers waiting behind a row of computers, ready to sell the tickets at 10 a.m. Others manned phones in another room, DeVries said.
Flomm, who moved to Billings from Polson for a job in January, was delighted with her good fortune. She ran over to MetraPark during her lunch hour on Friday to pick up a wrist band.
Flomm arrived at the Pavilion before 8 a.m. on Saturday, and while waiting at the head of the line, said she's excited to see the longtime rock star.
"I love him, the quality of the songs he produces," she said, adding her favorite song is "Rocket Man."
Flomm tried to see Elton John three years ago when he performed in Missoula but couldn't get tickets. She was determined this time to get seats.
Rodney Bodine of Billings stood farther back in line, chatting with others as he waited to buy tickets for himself and his wife, Kami.
"I like Elton John, but my wife thought she'd never be able to see him," he said. "So I told her I'd do it for her."
Besides the concert, Bodine said he is curious to see the refurbished arena.
"Living in Billings and knowing what happened to it, it will be really interesting to see what they did," he said.
MetraPark General Manager Bill Dutcher smiled as he stood watching the crowd. He was as excited to see part-time MetraPark employees back at work as he was to see so many people waiting to buy tickets.
"It's fun to see them in action, with smiles on the faces," Dutcher said.
MetraPark Marketing Director Sandra Hawke said the arena won't be completely finished in time for the concert. Since the main entrance won't be complete, concertgoers will use the exhibit hall entrance on the lower west side of the arena.