* What: Military Appreciation Night featuring Toby Keith
* Where: Riverbend Festival Coca-Cola Stage
* When: 8:15 p.m. military recognition, 9 p.m. concert
Toby Keith has notched 20 No. 1 hits, among them:
* “How Do You Like Me Now?”
* “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”
* “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight”
* “I Wanna Talk About Me”
* “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue”
* “Who’s Your Daddy?”
* “Beer for My Horses”
* “American Soldier”
* “As Good as I Once Was”
* “Made in America”
Sometimes the stars just align and it seems everything falls into place — as it has for tonight's Military Appreciation Night featuring country superstar Toby Keith at the Riverbend Festival.
In addition to recognizing active military personnel and veterans in the audience, the military appreciation portion of the program will remember the Fallen Five killed in the terrorist attack of July 2015: Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall J. Smith.
"Toby Keith was one of Marine Staff Sgt. David Wyatt's favorite performers, and 'American Soldier' was one of his favorite songs, according to his wife," says Mickey McCamish, who has organized and will emcee tonight's military salute.
Food City, the Southern grocery chain whose founder was a Naval Academy graduate, agreed to be the evening's sponsor. McCamish, who is a retired Navy captain, and Riverbend Festival Executive Director Chip Baker made a trip to the company's headquarters in Abingdon, Va., to pitch their proposal, and Steven Smith, the founder's son, agreed.
"It's a good fit because Food City is so involved with veterans and giving to the paralyzed veterans organization," says McCamish. Since 2011, donations from Food City shoppers have been collected for the Paralyzed Veterans of America's Mission: ABLE campaign.
Signing Keith, a country superstar known for his avid support of the USO and the military, to headline a night that honors soldiers and veterans makes fans want to raise their "Red Solo Cups" in tribute to festival organizers.
Since 2002, Keith has entertained more than 250,000 troops in 17 countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the USO website. He has made 11 trips to foreign countries where U.S. forces are based.
"Keith has been a favorite with the military community since the 2002 release of 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue' (The Angry American)," says Samantha Quigley in an article for the USO website.
"Inspired by the death of his veteran father and the events of September 11, the strongly worded, patriotic song might have been controversial, but it also became an anthem for the troops who were deploying to the Middle East to preserve American freedom."
In recognition of the singer's dedication and service to U.S. forces, the USO presented Keith its Spirit of the USO Award in 2014.
Tonight's Military Appreciation program will start about 8:15 p.m., says McCamish. It will begin with a presentation of the colors before Ivy Hall sings "The Star-Spangled Banner." Hall was the recent winner of the first Scenic City Sing-Off.
"Toward the end of the national anthem, we will unfurl a giant American flag on the front of the Coke Stage," says McCamish. He adds organizers are also planning a flyover at the conclusion of the anthem.
After a tribute to the Fallen Five, a service medley will play over the site through the festival's sound system.
"All service branches will be recognized, and we will have each branch's flag and a uniformed representative of each onstage," says McCamish. "As each service hymn is played, we'll ask those who served in that branch or whose family members served to stand and be recognized and cheer for their service branch."
McCamish says the program will conclude with a reminder of the freedoms citizens enjoy "and that those freedoms are not free. A lot of people have paid the price for them, and in recognition of those who made the ultimate sacrifice 'Taps' will be played."
Keith is scheduled to take the stage at 9 p.m. This is the fourth stop of his Interstates & Tailgates summer tour. Promoters say each of his tours has drawn more than 1 million fans over the last decade.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.