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AutoZone Liberty Bowl President’s Gala

Twist and Shout

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger | Photos by Don Perry

A crowd of approximately 1,000 party-goers and football fans gathered at The Peabody to countdown the kickoff of the 2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The 59th President’s Gala began with a cocktail reception in the Continental Ballroom. For the 21st year, Charlotte Neal served as the gala chairperson, leading a committee that included Kevin Alexander, Doug Browne, Debbie Butterick, Honey Cannon, Harold Graeter, Billie Jean Graham, Pam Jones, Pam Kimery, Pat Massengill, Courtney Neal and Ray Pohlman.

Musicians Gerry Finney and Andy Gaia performed while guests mingled, sharing their predictions for the outcome of the next day’s game between the University of Memphis and Iowa State. 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 recognized AutoZone Liberty Bowl past presidents and dignitaries including Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. Mayor Luttrell spoke to the crowd, explaining the significance of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to the overall bowl tradition. 

The seated dinner offered a menu of green salad served with a balsamic vinaigrette, a double entree of chicken and filet, mashed potatoes, asparagus and tomatoes. A dessert trio included crème brûlée, berries and cream, and a miniature chocolate torte.

Ehrhart made the traditional presentation of crystal vases to Erica Campbell, wife of Matt Campbell, head coach of Iowa State; and Maria Norvell, wife of Mike Norvell, head football coach at the University of Memphis.

Next, music legends and Rock & Rock Hall of Famers, The Isley Brothers were brought to the stage as Leigh Shockey, President of the 2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl, presented them with the Outstanding Achievement Award. 

“Each year, this award is presented in recognition of excellence in the field of music and entertainment, as well as service to the community,” said Ehrhart. “This year’s honorees, The Isley Brothers, have 27 Top 10 R&B hits and four Grammys. The group has achieved one of the longest, most influential and diverse careers in all genres of popular music.”

As The Isley Brothers performed for the crowd, guests got to their feet and filled the dance floor. After the show, there was more music and dancing as Andy Childs returned to the stage. The next day, The Isley Brothers starred in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s halftime spectacular. 

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