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Cottage Grove couple believes in 'Yesterday'

Cullen and Roxanne Kiely of Cottage Grove are the subject of a short film, "Cullen's Ticket to Ride," on SWC-TV. Cullen Kiely saw the band Aug. 21, 1965 at their one and only concert appearance in Minnesota. Submitted photo1 / 3
Beatles bassist Paul McCartney enjoys himself during a concert by the Beatles at Met Stadium Aug. 21, 1965. In the stands was Cullen Kiely of Cottage Grove, who tells his story in a new documentary by Justin Atkinson. Submitted photo courtesy of Bob Bonis2 / 3
Unlike this photographer, fans at the Beatles one and only concert in Minnesota had to sit in the stands. One of them was Cullen Kiely of Cottage Grove, who recounts his concert experience and how it changed his life in a new documentary by Justin Atkinson. Submitted photo3 / 3

COTTAGE GROVE — Cullen Kiely, 9, couldn't figure out why everybody in Metropolitan Stadium was screaming their heads off and carrying on like their pants were on fire.

All he knew was that his big sister had dragged him to see a group called the Beatles.

It was Aug. 21, 1965. It would turn out to be the band's one and only concert in Minnesota.

"I didn't think much of it at the time," Kiely said. "We knew they were big, but who knew their legacy 50 years later would be so enormous?"

Decades after the screaming and the blare of the amplifiers died away, Kiely would mention the experience to Roxanne, a co-worker at the U.S. Post Office in St. Paul.

"I got to to see the Beatles and I told Roxanne that and she was very impressed," he recalls.

Impressed enough to marry him, it turns out.

The couple, both retired, live in Cottage Grove. They share their story in a short film titled "Cullen's Ticket to Ride."

The documentary premieres Aug. 21 — the 53rd anniversary of the concert — on local cable SWC-TV channel 18. It can also be viewed on their Facebook page.

Filmmaker Justin Atkinson, a senior producer at SWC-TV in Cottage Grove, connected with Kiely last year. He was keen to talk to those folks who had actually seen the Beatles at Met Stadium.

"It was that show that really brought them together, " he said. "It's a love story."

For Kiely, the concert proved to be an eye-opener, not to mention an ear-splitter, Atkinson said.

"Here you have this 9-year-old boy at his first concert and he doesn't know what to expect. As soon as the Beatles come out, there's this screaming and hysteria around him," he said. "It was kind of scary."

Atkinson interviewed the Kielys at their home. He also obtained photos of the concert from the Minnesota Historical Society. The photos were taken by Bob Bonis, the Beatles U.S. tour manager.

"He was the only photographer who was able to get pictures of the Beatles," Atkinson said. "They made the media sit in the stands with everybody else."

Atkinson also has a bootleg audio recording of the concert. Judging from his description, it must sound like the listener is standing three feet from a jet engine.

"The PA system were not equipped," Atkinson said. "The screams, the excitement and hysteria. You couldn't hear the music."

Little more than a year after the Minnesota concert, the Beatles, weary of being drowned out by screaming audiences, would retire from live performing. They played their last concert Aug. 29, 1966, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

At their wedding, they danced to "In My Life," from the band's Rubber Soul album. The Kielys, both retired, live in Cottage Grove with Roxanne's Beatles albums and memorabilia.

"She's the real Beatles fan," Cullen Kiely said. "She had the crush on Paul like all the girls did. I just happened to be the one who saw them in concert.".

Roxanne Kiely said she became a Beatles fan "The first time I heard 'I Want to Hold Your Hand.'"

Would they have fallen in love if Cullen hadn't been in the stands at the show?

"Yes, but it was a definite plus," she said.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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