By Carolyn Marnon – It came scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen during the season finale of Rock This Boat… “Congratulations to our Total Blockhead Grand Prize Winner-Jenny S. of Wayne, MI.” That is how I learned that Wayne resident Jenny Sexton had won a trip for two to Hershey, PA to attend the Mixtape Festival, a major summer music festival.
Six days before that, Jenny was at her job as an event planner when she glanced at her emails. The subject line of one of them jumped out at her: NKOTB-Congratulations You’ve Won! She says her eyes got huge, she covered her mouth and ran outside to call her friend, Tonya. “I won. I won,” she screamed to her friend. She says it’s crazy that she won this nation-wide contest. She wasn’t going to enter it because she had trouble finding the link she was supposed to go to after sending a text message to #rockthisboat#entry. Once at the link, there was a question to answer. She finally found it after almost giving up. She’s so glad now that she didn’t.
Several weeks later, in early August, Jenny and Tonya were on their way to Hershey, Pennsylvania for an all-expenses paid weekend to the Mixtape Festival. They were picked up at the airport by a driver holding up a large card with her name on it. They were driven to The Hotel Hershey, which according to Jenny, was ritzy and huge. She says they were given chocolate bars when they checked in and had Hershey kisses left on their pillows at night. “The staff was phenomenal.” Jenny also received two-day passes to Hershey Park along with shuttle rides, tickets to the Mixtape Festival which had them right next to the stage, passes to the VIP After-Party and she was given spending cash. The only expense she had was for her food.
2016 Mixtape Festival artists included Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees, O-Town, Dream, Ryan Cabrera and Jenny’s favorite, New Kids on the Block. Jenny first saw NKOTB when she was 14 years old in 1990. Her favorite band member was Joey McIntyre. He is still her favorite, but she has a growing love for Donnie Wahlberg. When the Kids started touring again in 2008, her love for the Kids started all over again. She’s been to concerts in Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland, Chicago and Erie, PA.
After spending a day at Hershey Park, Jenny and Tonya headed back to the hotel to look around the grounds, clean up and figure out what to do that evening. As they stood in the hotel lobby, NKOTB Jordan Knight walked in; he seemed to be in a hurry. NKOTB Danny Wood then entered with his family. Jenny and Tonya were wearing NKOTB t-shirts. Danny came over to them and started talking. He asked if they were getting ready for the festival Pre-Party. They told him they didn’t have tickets for the event. He then invited them and got their names so he could put them on the list. They had just 20 minutes to get ready. At the Pre-Party, Jenny says the Kids answered questions and talked about the upcoming 8th annual NKOTB cruise. The cruise, in October, sails from New Orleans to Cozumel and back. Of course, Jenny and Tonya will be sailing on the cruise for the first time. Fans asked when the theme nights would be released; they are usually released about a month before the cruise. Suggestions for theme nights were solicited which included a graffiti party where everyone wears white shirts and has markers. Tonya is hoping for a glow party. The band members took selfies with attendees. Jenny got a selfie with each member.
Before the big concert, Jenny and Tonya were able to attend the Meet and Greet. Jenny says it was almost 100 degrees outside. They were near the front of the line because they had special passes. However, they still had to endure a torrential downpour while waiting in line. When their turn came up, they were able to meet, hug and have pictures taken with the band. She says Jonathan Knight was concerned because she didn’t have sunscreen on.
During the concert, Jenny and Tonya had tickets in the Golden Circle where seats normally sell for $800. She says they were up by the stage. The concert with all performers lasted from about 4:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. It was a very long, hot day and it wasn’t over yet! They had tickets to the After Party where all the performers took turns coming on stage and interacting with the fans for about 20 minutes. There was also dancing to a DJ until 2:00 a.m.
Although Jenny didn’t get to see everything she would have liked while she was in Hershey, there was one thing she did do that she commented on. “I went to the bathroom (at Hershey Park) and it smelled like chocolate.”
After all these years, Jenny fondly remembers her first crushes. She says NKOTB gave good messages to their young fans such as following rules. Jenny says she was a squeaky clean kid, and her mom scraped up enough money for Jenny to go to her first concert at Joe Louis Arena. She says she would listen to NKOTB cassette tapes with her headphones on and fall asleep. Now she is able to travel to various cities and go on the cruise. “My husband is amazing and lets me do this stuff,” she says. She and her sports and beer-loving husband have been married for 15 years and have two kids.
Jenny is one of the moderators for the facebook group Michigan (NKOTB) Blockheads. Because of the New Kids, she knows people everywhere. She has made friends with people through social media, concerts and attending other events. Blockheads, as fans are called, are a friendly and caring group. It must be because the NKOTB are very friendly and caring people. They reach out to their fans and acknowledge that they wouldn’t be where they are without their fans. Jenny just turned 40 and says “We’ve had a really cool ride this year with the New Kids. It’s just the beginning. They’re fun and they adore their fans and we adore them back.”