The normally sleepy town of Moline, Ill., became the center of the pre-teen universe this weekend. An army of Hannah Montana fans, clad in purple and pink, descended upon the local arena for the biggest concert tour of the year.
"She's the triple threat," gushed 11-year-old Montana fan Julia Levens. "She can sing, she can dance, she can act!"
And she can also sell out concerts.
Hannah Montana is not an actual person. She's a character played by 14-year-old Miley Cyrus, the actress daughter of singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
On her hit Disney Channel sitcom, Montana is every girl's fantasy: a regular kid by day, and a pop star by night.
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Cyrus performs part of the concert as Montana, and the rest as herself.
"By entering the concert and seeing quote-unquote Hannah Montana perform, it's almost like you're entering the television show," said Brian Hiatt, associate editor of Rolling Stone.
Montana fans may be pint-sized, but the crowds at her shows are quite simply the biggest of any concert tour in America right now. Kids like that she's cool. Parents like that she's safe.
"If you're 11 years old, and you can't see Hannah Montana, that's the end of the world," said Hiatt. "For parents, it seems to be the end of the world, too, and that's why we seem to be seeing this level of hysteria."
Adding to the frenzy, scalpers have been using special computer software to gobble up tickets for the 54-date tour, the second they go on sale, snatching them from the hands of disappointed mothers.
"At 10 o'clock, I went online, and at 10:01, they were sold out," said Laurie Hayes of Princeton, Ill., who had hoped to buy tickets for her twin 12-year-old daughters. "I could understand if it was a U2 concert, but for a 14-year-old girl — I mean, this is a kid's concert — to be gone in less than 30 seconds, I was shocked."
Ticket prices are now through the roof, selling for thousands of dollars in some cases.
On StubHub.com, the eBay of ticket resellers, the average Hannah Montana ticket price is $246. That's a tenfold increase over face value, and more than the average price to see Bruce Springsteen, the Police, Justin Timberlake, and many other big names acts currently touring.
"It's robbery. It really is," said Hayes.
It's such a hot ticket that one Connecticut radio station held a footrace for the tickets. The only catch: you had to be a dad, and you had to dress in drag. Still, several fathers turned out in the hopes of making their daughters happy.
"No way in heck I can pay $5,000 for a ticket," said Russ Krom of Southington, Conn., who high-heeled his way past the finish line first.
Hannah Montana mania may exact a high price for fathers, but for their daughters, it's worth every penny.