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AutoZone Liberty Bowl President’s Gala

Party of the Season

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger   | Photos by Don Perry 

A crowd of more than 850 people gathered at The Peabody to countdown to the kickoff of the 60th AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The 2018 President’s Gala began with a cocktail reception in the Continental Ballroom. Charlotte Neal served as this year’s gala chairperson, leading a committee that included Honey Cannon, Billie Jean Graham, Babbie Lovett, Pat Massengill, Bob Neal, Courtney Neal and Gwen Smith.

Gerry Finney and Andy Gaia performed while guests mingled for cocktails. The group moved to the Peabody Grand Ballroom where Andy Childs provided musical entertainment. Steve Ehrhart, Executive Director of AutoZone Liberty Bowl, welcomed attendees and called a fleet of dignitaries, including Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, up front to be recognized. Mayor Harris spoke to the crowd, explaining the significance of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to the overall bowl tradition. Mayor Jim Strickland provided the evening’s invocation. The seated dinner was catered by The Peabody.

Ehrhart made the traditional presentation of crystal vases to Tia Odom, wife of Barry Odom, head coach of Missouri; and Kristen Gundy, wife of Mike Gundy, head coach of Oklahoma State. Next, Motown legends The Four Tops were brought to the stage as Bill Kinkade, President of the 2018 AutoZone Liberty Bowl, recognized them with the Outstanding Achievement Award.

“Each year, the Outstanding Achievement Award is presented in recognition of excellence in the field of music and entertainment, as well as service to the community,” said Ehrhart. “The Four Tops have certainly made an indelible mark in the music industry. The group has one of the longest and most diverse careers in all genres of music. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Past recipients of the Outstanding Achievement Award include Danny Thomas, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Lou Rawls, Clint Black, Little Richard, Alabama, The Beach Boys, LeAnn Rimes, The O’Jays, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Temptations, Big & Rich, The Commodores and The Isley Brothers.”

As The Four Tops performed many of their iconic songs for the crowd, like “Baby I Need Your Loving,” guests got to their feet and filled the dance floor. For their encore, The Four Tops invited the crowd to sing along to “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).” After the show, there was more music and dancing as Andy Childs returned to the stage. The next day, The Four Tops starred in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s halftime spectacular. 

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