Cleveland's annual music extravaganza RoverFest featured a sold-out crowd eager to see headliner Nelly on Saturday, but it was a special — unexpected — guest that ended up stealing the show.
Amanda Berry, who made headlines in May as one of three women who were kidnapped and held hostage for a decade, took the stage with her family, thoroughly surprised the audience — and made her first public appearance since her rescue.
The show's host, local radio personality Rover, played things up by announcing, "I'm going to bring out a family that you probably know." Everyone did, indeed, and responded with wild cheers.
Dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and sunglasses, the 27-year-old looked just like any concertgoer; if one did not know her story, it would be impossible to tell she was the heroine of a tragic saga that horrified an entire nation. She didn't address the crowd, but she raised her hand in the air and gave them an ear-to-ear grin.
"I told her she had a little bit of time to make up on the partying," Rover told the audience. "And that you guys would help her out."
But that wasn't all. When Nelly's set time came around, he asked Berry to return to the stage so he could personally serenade her.
"I can't even imagine the type of strength and the type of courage that it took to keep you going, so for that, I commend you and say thank you," the rapper said to Berry, giving her a pat on the back. As the audience roared and the young woman gave them an ear-to-ear grin, Nelly then broke into his hit "Just A Dream." Berry grooved enthusiastically alongside him for the duration of the tune.
"I can't even imagine the type of strength and the type of courage that it took to keep you going, so for that, I commend you and say thank you," the rapper said to Berry, giving her a pat on the back.
Berry was one of three girls that were abducted by Ariel Castro between 2002 and 2004, when they were all under 21 years old. They were held hostage in his Cleveland-area home and sustained repeated rape and abuse over the 10-year period. In May, Berry managed to break free by kicking out a door and calling 911.
Just a day before Berry's appearance at RoverFest, Castro pled guilty to 937 counts linked to the abductions. The deal will send him to life in prison without parole.