Hundreds of people raised thousands Saturday night while enjoying the musical stylings of some of country music’s best and brightest from the past, present and future.
An empty seat didn’t exist at the Mill for the McClain Christian Academy fundraiser. And while 3-year-old Tristen Collier didn’t make the playbill, he stole the show, singing “You Are My Sunshine,” early in the evening’s festivities.
Others, such as McClain senior and lifelong attendee Shelby Maxwell, gave testimonials on the importance of the school in the community and in their lives.
“It was a huge success, and there were several reasons for that,” said McClain headmaster Charles Poston. “We have a debt of gratitude to our performers. We always have a great group of supporters in parents and volunteers. It’s a great event for our community. We had a group attending from El Paso, Texas, along with Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. It reaches out well beyond our Lebanon community.”
Grammy-winning Christian performer Michael W. Smith was the first to take the stage, followed by Rachel Bradshaw and award-winning songwriter Deborah Allen, accompanied by guitarist Mike Loudermilk. The sold-out crowd joined the duo to help sing “Baby I Lied,” a song Allen wrote.
Up-and-coming artist Sal Gonzales was the lone performer Saturday night to also be featured as a repeat performer from last year’s event. Gonzalez, who served in the Armed Forces and lost a leg in Iraq, received a standing ovation for his emotional song, "Heroes," about a soldier who lost his best friend in the war.
Grammy-winning artist and comedian Ray Stevens then took the stage to sing some classic hits and spin some yarns. Stevens opened with the crowd favorite, “Mississippi Squirrel Revival.”
Acclaimed Grammy-winning bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs showed off his musical talents on mandolin and guitar alongside one of his prodigies, Andy Leftwich, on fiddle.
Several items went for top dollar during a live auction just before The Oak Ridge Boys brought down the house as the closing act.
During the show, the Oak Ridge Boys presented McClain parent Julie Craig with a plaque for helping them during their 40-year career as part of a yearlong anniversary celebration.
Craig was instrumental in bringing many of the acts to the fourth-annual event.