It was an incredible evening filled with music, camaraderie, and vivacity as country music artist and Athens, Georgia native Colt Ford welcomed friends Rhett Akins, Jason Aldean, Dallas Davidson, Mike Dekle, Edwin McCain, James Otto, and surprise guests Brantley Gilbert, Rachel Farley, and Corey Smith to the recently rebuilt Georgia Theatre stage on Tuesday, August 16 to raise money for the families of fallen Senior Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian and surviving Senior Officer Tony Howard. The emotionally-charged sold-out event attracted over 200 people to a private reception and silent auction at the Hotel Indigo’s Rialto Room for a pre-show celebration before the crowd of 1,100 enjoyed an evening featuring all the artists ‘in the round’ with Ford’s band backing the performances. Altogether, the evening raised over $85,000 for the families, with monies still being donated in the wake of the performances.
The aptly titled “Colt Ford and Friends” event was conceived after Ford learned of a shooting earlier this year in his community that left his high school friend, Senior Officer Howard, injured and resulted in the death of Senior Officer Christian, leaving both families at a financial disadvantage in the tough economy. In less than one month, Ford organized the fundraiser and called in friends to help him pay tribute to Christian’s memory.
Ford shares, “I want to say thank you to all of my friends who helped us have such a special night in my hometown. To all the artists who joined in to perform or who donated items to help raise money, y’all are amazing, and I am thankful to call you all friends. This could not have happened without y’all.”
Ford received autographed guitars from Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, and Carrie Underwood, as well as an autographed stage shirt from Keith Urban, ticket and meet-and-greet packages from Aldean and Eric Church, Adams Golf clubs, autographed R.E.M. package including limited edition vinyls, autographed merchandise from Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Kid Rock and NASCAR’s David Ragan, a 4-day TravAmerica vacation to Cancun from Janice Brockmeyer, a luxury stay in the Hotel Indigo Athens’ Presidential Suite, along with many more items.
The evening held several special moments with one of the most memorable being Aldean, Ford, and Gilbert’s performance of the No. 1 hit (penned by Ford and Gilbert), “Dirt Road Anthem.” Ford reminisced saying, “The first time we ever did this song was me and Brantley right here [on the Georgia Theatre stage],” before turning to Aldean and sharing, “but thank you for taking this song to No. 1 for us!”
Aldean chimed in, “I want to thank these two guys right here for writing this song. It was a hit before I ever recorded it, so thank you both.” The rendition opened with Aldean performing the first verse, followed by Ford and Gilbert’s unique adaptation of the song’s second and third verses.
The evening closed after nearly three hours of music with Ford thanking the crowd for their extraordinary support. “A very special ‘thank you’ to all fans that came out to show and have been praying for the families and this community…I love y’all so much.”