MANATEE -- Shortly before noon Friday, country music star Josh Gracin parasailed for the first time.
And he did so overlooking the beautiful beaches of Anna Maria Island.
A former member of the United States Marine Corps, he didn’t fear being up in the air.
“I just hope the cord doesn’t break,” Gracin, 30, said. “I’m a big guy.”
Lisa Burns joined the singer in the skies.
“I am afraid of heights,” Burns, 25, admitted shortly after arriving on Coquina Beach.
Her best friend and East Bradenton roommate, Sarah Kleppinger, had parasailed before and kept offering words of reassurance right up until the moment the apparatus -- and its two riders -- left the boat.
Burns earned her spot next to the season two “American Idol” finalist by winning the “Cool Today’s Up, Up n’ Away with Josh Gracin” contest.
Joyland, Cool Today and YOLO Parasail held it to promote the performer’s concert Friday night at Joyland in Bradenton.
“You sure this will hold me?” the singer asked Captain Ryan Davis after putting on his harness.
Burns smiled nervously.
And then up they went over the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico.
As the parasail returned to the boat, Burns, a former gymnast and cheerleader, gracefully completed a summersault.
Gracin managed one as well.
“That was great,” he said after returning safely to the boat. “It was so peaceful and relaxing up there, you can’t hear a thing.”
“My fear of heights hasn’t been cured but that was a lot of fun,” Burns said. “I thought it would a lot worse.”
Gracin then gave a private acoustic performance -- he kicked it off with his upcoming single “Long Way to Go” -- for an additional eight second-prize winners, who were allowed to each bring a guest.
The show took place at a pavilion on Coquina Beach. Attendees noshed on a barbecue spread that included pulled pork sandwiches, chicken, ribs and side dishes such as macaroni and cheese.
“I’m a huge country music fan and never been to anything this intimate,” said Sarasota resident Wendy Davis, 49. “This is so exciting.”
Six third-place winners received two tickets each -- as well as meet and greet passes -- to Gracin’s concert at Joyland.
His hits include “Nothing to Lose,” “I Want to Live,” “Brass Bed” and “We Weren’t Crazy.”
Gracin has sold out Joyland the last three times he has played the country music club.
“Joyland has always been so awesome to us over the years,” Gracin said. “Not only do we really connect with the Bradenton fans, but we just love playing Joyland and the way we’re treated by their owners and employees.”
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog at Bradenton.com/blogs.