Corte Madera, California, USA - Microsoft wowed Marin County, California with an amazing opening celebration for its new Corte Madera location, its 9th in the state and 29th in the US. Featuring Kelly Clarkson in concert and an appearance by 49ers legend Jerry Rice, the weekend began with fans arriving at 10:00 p.m. on Friday evening camping out so as to be one of the first 100 people in line and receive a coveted wristband permitting entry to a meet-and-greet with Clarkson.
Microsoft is most proud of its recently-launched Windows 8 operating system and its exciting new Surface product, a tablet/laptop combo. Panos Panay, Surface team leader, was on hand to add excitement to the Saturday morning grand opening event.
“This is more energy than ever,“ Panay told the enthusiastic crowd, “and just shipping Windows 8 should really make for some excitement. Just wait until you get your hands on Surface!“ Once the store was unveiled, visitors were treated to just that- an opportunity to see, get their hands on and demo Surface, and be treated to Microsoft hospitality.
Always a good business neighbor, Microsoft generously donated product to important local concerns, including Junior Achievement of Northern California ($1,000,000), the Children’s Creativity Museum ($250,000), and Girls Inc. ($250,000). Appreciative- and vocal- members of Girls Inc. made known their thanks, shouting and cheering from the crowd as their representative received the donation, and then new store manager Bryan Scott and his employee team enthusiastically welcomed visitors by clapping, chanting, and high-fiving them as they entered the new retail shop.
Nicely situated in The Village’s courtyard across from trend-setting Banana Republic and Gap, the new Microsoft Retail Store was a beacon destination opening weekend, with thousands queuing through and around the elegant shopping mall and out into the parking lot. Crowds later moved to the adjacent lot that became an impromptu concert arena. Fans were contented and orderly, shepherded by a seasoned security team that, it was apparent, all knew how to create essential flow and safety while also maintaining an element of celebration and fun.
Kelly Clarkson walked onstage later that day and launched right into the songs all wanted to hear, including “I Forgive You,” “The Dark Side,” and “Already Gone.” She eventually took a break, apologized to her fans for being late (her plane had arrived late at SFO) and thanked them for waiting so long.
“I’ve been told some of you have waited 13 to 15 hours to see us,“ Clarkson told the jam-packed crowd. “ I’m not sure I’d wait that long to see anyone- not even Jesus,” she quipped. “Well, maybe Jesus, because I have some questions about (the recent storm, “Sandy,“ on the East Coast).“ She lauded her back-up vocalist, Nicole, for being able to fly out from the East Coast for this event, adding, “Most back-up singers are even better than the front singers.” The crowd appreciated the remarks.
Clarkson offered up duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with a back-up singer standing in for Jason Aldean. Swinging into “Since You’ve Been Gone,” she pleased with more numbers, including “Miss Independent” and then closing with “Stronger (What Doesn‘t Kill You”).
DJ Devin Lucen warmed up the waiting crowd both at the store opening and then later at the Kelly Clarkson concert- and so did Dell and other purveyors who offered raffles for some amazing prizes. Mike Hughes, a contractor who’d traveled all the way from Murietta, California for this event, was the- very thrilled- winner of a new, deluxe Microsoft computer. “I’ve never won anything!” he said. His niece, accompanying him, joked, offering, “It’s a good thing we waited in line for you since 6 a.m.!” Sounds like somebody owes somebody a nice meal there or something…
Kelly Clarkson fans ran the gamut- from families to singles, both young and old. Locals Marjorie and Steve Shanks were on hand to experience, as Shanks claimed, their “first rock concert since (they) were married twenty-five years ago.” His wife shared that Shanks is a member of the Golden Gate Computer Society, a group of about 300 and one of the foremost PC user groups in the San Francisco Bay Area. (www.ggcs.org.)
High School students Harmela Beyene, Mia Stein, Merone Eckert and her sister Woubidi Eckert were already standing in wait at 11:30 a.m. at the concert site across from the shopping mall. Braving the scorching sun, the girls couldn’t say enough about Clarkson- or why they were willing to wait until 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. or “as long as they had to” in order to be sure they’d be first in to see their fave performer. They’d had practice waiting, already having spent the night to get their wristbands.
“We stood in a long line of about 500 people last night,“ Beyene said. “We don’t get celebrities visiting Marin County, and when we heard on 99.7 radio about a free concert, we knew we had to (go). We love Kelly Clarkson because she is such a great female role model in a male-dominated music world.” Merone Eckert concurred: “She’s one of the first stars that hasn’t done anything horrible, no bad press. I’d stand in line as long as it takes to meet her.” All the girls enthusiastically agreed. Stein and Merone Eckert, by the way, attend the School of Environmental Leadership. Hear that, rock stars of America? Young future leaders are watching and listening to you, so please pay attention: They’re looking for media icons to set an example.
And speaking of media icons who set great examples for our youth, on Sunday, Microsoft store visitors were treated with the opportunity to not on ly meet San Francisco 49ers Jerry Rice, but also play Kinect with him- a great ending to an amazing opening celebration weekend for Microsoft at The Village, Corte Madera.
Text and photos Ó 2012 M. D. Caprario
M. D. Caprario is a writer and editor working in NY, LA and the San Francisco Bay Area. She also covers great events, books, film, and other media and also people and corporations that do great things that make our world a better place. Reach her at: [email protected]