Si Robertson had been greeting people for five minutes Saturday evening at Columbus North High School when he spotted 6-year-old Asher Stevens wearing oversized slippers of Robertson’s likeness.
The man known to millions nationwide as Uncle Si then unleashed his trademark greeting of “Hey,” and quickly followed with, “Hey, kid — come ’ere.”
Stevens was met with a playful squeeze from one of TV’s most popular stars on the highly rated reality show, “Duck Dynasty.” The youngster and the celebrity both broke into laughter.
Si, nephew Willie, brother Alan and Willie’s wife Korie Robertson seemed as home at Memorial Gym — site of “A Night With Duck Dynasty” — as they are at a Louisiana duck pond not far from their southern, multimillion-dollar Duck Commander duck call business which serves as backdrop of the show highlighting family and faith.
And why wouldn’t they be comfortable on a local stage featuring a custom-built, 39-foot duck pond — actually stocked with bass and bluegill, the better to tempt Si to fish?
“This makes us feel right at home,” Korie told the crowd of nearly 7,000, including some who came from several states away.
Willie, sporting a stars-and-stripes bandana, engaged in playful banter soon after he and his wife took the stage at the close of The Neverclaim band’s rocking version of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” the show’s theme song.
“Korie’s good-looking, but she’s also smart,” Willie said. “See, I’m not stupid. Don’t be fooled by the beard.”
He laughed about a moment a few years before the show began airing on the A&E Network in 2012. Willie was sitting on the curb in front of Walmart waiting on his family to come out. A motorist drove up alongside him and, seeing his lengthy beard and simple appearance, mistook him for a homeless person instead of the CEO of the one of the most successful hunting businesses in the country.
Willie refers to such incidents as “facial profiling.” The crowd laughed and applauded.
Willie drew cheers again when he asked, “Isn’t it nice to be able to watch a show on television with your kids without all the garbage?”
At the preshow gathering for people with VIP tickets, Si was the hit of the night, sipping tea from his trademark cup and hugging young fans.
Columbus’ Isabelle Settle, 12, with a big smile and long wavy hair, became one of his favorites. He warmly pulled her cheek-to-cheek for pictures and told the surrounding security officers, “Call the pilot and tell them we’ll have another one coming aboard when we leave.”
He and the other three cast members shook hands, signed books, T-shirts and posters, and posed for more than 100 pictures. During one segment, eight different people stood 10 feet away for cellphone shots.
Nearby, Anne Carpenter became almost giddy as she waited her turn to say hello. She and her family drove three-and-half hours from LaPorte in northern Indiana to see the cast. She was beside herself with anticipation before she met them at the meet-and-greet.
“Oh my goodness, I love their faith; I love their humor; I love their personalities,” she said. “I would love for them to adopt me.”
She said she would gladly board the private plane that brought them and head to their home in West Monroe, Louisiana.
“At the end of each episode, as they finish praying,” Carpenter said, “I always say ‘amen’ right along with them.”