This post was kindly provided by Louise/4Tay who attended the Fort Walton show. Photos of Taylor Hicks and videos provided by Louise/4Tay. All other photos provided by macpolski.
Against a backdrop of the fifth anniversary of Katrina and a TV appearance by Taylor in “The Gulf is Back” on the CWT network Friday night, Taylor Hicks and his band, handpicked by sponsor Fort Walton Medical Center, found themselves as the centerpiece of the Fort Walton Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the Bull Rigdon Fairgrounds. Despite heavy rain the day of the event, all participants joyfully went about their day to show their appreciation for the everyday heroics displayed by the many, many military personnel living and working in the Fort Walton Beach area. This event also demonstrated the diverse cultures that make up the Fort Walton community. It made me proud to see these cultures come together for this day of appreciation.
The Fort Walton Medical Center sponsored Taylor’s appearance and in their introduction of Taylor they spoke about why they ‘insisted’ that Taylor headline the entertainment portion of the event. When the event was organized for 2010, the sponsors thought first of Taylor because of his tireless efforts on behalf of the Gulf Coast and his dedication to honoring American troops while on tour across the US for the past two years. The sponsor said that they wanted no one else to conclude the Armed Forces Appreciation Day than Taylor. This made me proud to be a fan.
The event was marked by friendly greetings by all military and auxiliary personnel from the ticket takers to the food vendors. Military displays honoring the diversity of the region and military personnel were on hand in several buildings spread out across the fairgrounds behind the outdoor stage. Displays of dance from the Phillipines and Latinos filled the hall where the two headliners, Kimberley Locke and Taylor Hicks would perform. We knew the show would go on because the military wanted Taylor to join in the celebration. This made me proud to be there to witness these events.
The US Air Force Reserve Band took the floor and offered outstanding performances of classic music from the 40′s. Four branches of the military participated in a pizza eating contest while donations filled their respective charity’s buckets. The winning team’s charity won the total donations. The donations went to the Perry Jones scholarship fund. Perry Jones is a young man who lost his life while serving in the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard ceremony honoring Mr. Jones was filled with heartfelt testimony and song witnessed by his extended family who were on the stage. A Tuskegee airman, Walter Richardson, a Fort Walton native, sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic while the audience and Jones’ family sang along. The scholarship money was presented on behalf of the Coast Guard who won the pizza eating contest. Taylor brought me to this show but this ceremony made me proud to be an American.
Kimberley Locke, a 3rd place winner on American Idol in 2002 performed a long set with her band of original and cover tunes. Her remarkable presence and style endeared the audience to her. I was proud of how wonderful Kim is how far she has come since realizing her American dream.
Observing the crowds throughout the long day, I noticed the military families and their friends. They are all so young and dedicated and committed to making their world a better place. This celebration draws thousands on a yearly basis. The weather did not keep people home. They came anyway and visited the vendors and their friends and a lot of them left because the outdoor activities were not held. I was at the fairgrounds earlier in the day and the streams of people came and went. This made me proud of the community these individuals have created and are committed to on a daily basis. Bad weather was not going to make them miss this event.
So with a backdrop of Katrina on every TV set in the country, especially in this Gulf Coast area, terrible weather and a worse forecast, the people still came out to honor their military men and women. To show his appreciation for our Armed Services, Taylor Hicks bounded onto the stage with vigor and exuberance. The band could not have picked a better day to play the best show of their tour this summer. Just being in the vicinity of our beloved military seemed to make Taylor strive for a flow of perfection from song to song. Interjecting his gratitude between almost every tune, Taylor thanked the military for protecting his country and making it possible for us all to live the American dream. This made us all proud to be a Taylor Hicks fan because this is not something he just mentioned for this event. He says it at every show without fail.
Taylor has been traveling a great deal in the last two years. He is in a lot of airports lately. He encourages us all to show our appreciation for the men and women who serve by overcoming our shyness, shaking hands and saying ‘thanks for your service.’ This is something he lives by and on this day of appreciation, Taylor’s performance and how he lives his life of gratitude to the freedoms we all enjoy does indeed make us proud.
When the show was over, the line of people waiting to meet Taylor was stretched from the back of the hall to the front. Taylor took special attention with the military fans and wounded veterans. Standing in that line behind a lot of folks and seeing Taylor interact with many new fans he made that night made us all proud to be there and honor our brave men and women because that is what Taylor has taught us to do by his example. Nineteen makes me prouder every time.