By Sarrah Peters
The fifth annual Bash in the Bend will be held Saturday, June 1 at 103 Robert Lee Road in Gadsden.
Five years ago, neighbors Jeff Little, Shane Reid and Mark Cassidy decided to host a cookout in Tillison Bend the weekend of Father’s Day on their several acres of property. Reid asked local musician Kelly Johnson to perform. Before long, the cookout turned into a party with hundreds of people attending. Another local musician, Glen Williams, who plays with the Foggy Hollow Bluegrass Band, joined Johnson on stage to keep the larger-than-anticipated crowd entertained.
Everyone agreed that the first Bash in the Bend was a success. The trio agreed to host the event again the next year, and invited Adam Hood to play for the event. But the event soon transformed from a simple party into a fundraiser helping local charities and people.
A few weeks before the second Father’s Day bash, Shane’s nephew Tyler Reid, about to enter his senior year of high school, was diagnosed with leukemia, a type of bone cancer. Shane was selling raffle tickets to raise money to help with medical related bills and asked his co-hosts if he could sell them at the event. Little and Cassidy had another idea: to turn the event itself into a fundraiser.
“Within two weeks, we turned it into a fundraiser and the first night, we raised $12,800 for Tyler’s medical expenses,” said Little. “It just kind of took off at that point.”
During the next year, the group created a 501-C3 non-profit. The event was called the Bash in the Bend, and Todd McCartney created the organization’s name by making the word bash into an acronym for Brothers and Sisters Helping.
“It was perfect,” said Little. “That’s our goal, to help people.”
The third year, its second as a fundraiser, the Bash in the Bend raised money for the James M. Barrie Center, which it considers as its “anchor charity.” The charity also looks to help individuals who have fallen through the cracks. Last year, in addition to the Barrie Center, the Bash raised money for the family of John Evans, a pipe-fitter who was paralyzed after being thrown from a horse.
This year, the Barrie Center will be a recipient along with Rozlyn Green, a third-grader at Glencoe Elementary who is fighting leukemia, and Olivia Burell, who is going through treatment for Lyme Disease.
“It is truly amazing how God has taken this thing from three families getting together to cook out to we are into three years of running this as a fundraiser,” said Little. “We’ve been able to give away just shy of $50,000 now. Our primary objective is to give back to the community and share the blessings.”
The Brothers and Sisters Helping (BASH) board members dedicate time and money to make the event a success, but Little said that it would not be possible without its numerous sponsors. Little wanted to extend his gratitude to board member Jason Guinn at Lookout IT for his services building the Bash in the Bend website and social media presence.
Little said that the Bash in the Bend’s secondary objective is to highlight the beauty of Etowah County and showcase the area as a good place to live and raise a family.
The first Bash in the Bend had over 350 attendees. This year, Little expects over 3,000 attendees.
As a family-oriented event, the Bash will feature activities for children. Vendors will sell food. The Mudbug Mafia out of Gulf Shores will sell crawfish. The Glencoe-based burger joint Big Chief will sell food. Dee’s Nuts will sell boiled peanuts. Maggie’s Farm, which offers outdoor Southern cooking, will be at the event. J.R. Zeringue will sell his outstanding jambalaya. Frios Pops will sell its popular popsicles. Chad Whitt will donate his talents to cook pork chops and barbecue in the sponsorship tent. Johnson’s Giant Foods and Back Forty Beer contributed to the sponsorship tent.
Gates open at 3:30 p.m. Local band Black Creek Revival will start the show at 5 p.m. Little said that the band plays classic rock, southern rock and a little country music. Tony Irby will take the stage next for his third year performing at the event.
“This cat can play a guitar and he can sing,” said Little about Irby. “When he saw the cause of what we were doing, he became one of our biggest fans. He has been one of our biggest supporters, promoters. He is awesome. The first three years it was just him and his guitar but this year he is bringing a full band. And we are pumped about that.”
Hokes Bluff native and up-and-coming country artist Drake White will headline the show.
“We are very appreciative of him stepping up and becoming a part of this event,” said Little.
It’s been a couple years since White performed in Hokes Bluff or the surrounding areas.
“I’m really excited,” White said about coming back to his hometown to play. “I’m excited about it being Father’s Day. My parents live right down the road in Tillison Bend. It’ll be a cool thing for sure.”
White came from a family of talented singers, with his parents being involved in the church choir
“I was always drawn to music and the sounds and melodies, but sports kind of took over in junior high and high school,” said White “Once I got out and got into junior college at Gadsden State, I started fiddling around with a guitar and going to Foggy Hollow with the bluegrass thing. I started singing from there, and once I went to Auburn, we formed a little duo with a buddy of mine named Adam from Southside. I started playing in local pubs around Auburn.”
For White, deciding to pursue a career in music was all about following his passion and doing what made him happy.
“It was something that lit me up and allowed me to escape the stresses of college and life and everything in general,” said White. “I’ve always had a vision about doing what makes you happy and brings you joy. When I asked myself that question, I always came back to music.”
White moved to Nashville after college to pursue his passion. He spent time “making his circle” by meeting people who influenced and encouraged. While in the Music City, White began songwriting, which he had not done much of previously, and discovered he had a knack for it. About four years after making the move, he started making progress with his music career.
White was influenced by a wide variety of music.
“I was influenced by my dad and the geographical area where I was raised with Muscle Shoals up the road and going down to the beach every year and having that New Orleans influence,” said White. “I love soul music and southern rock. My sister was three years older than me and we’d listen to Sublime. That was our favorite band.
“There was hip-hop and pop, really everything. Being raised in Alabama, driving old jeeps around dirt roads and listening to country music and people telling stories, the bluegrass at Foggy Hollow, sitting around a fire telling stories, is what I was drawn to. All of it works together for me.”
Attendees of the show can look forward to hearing White’s popular songs such as “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” and “Heartbeat,” as well as covers of some of the songs that inspire him.
“The show is part Baptist Tent Revival [and] part southern rock festival,” said White. “It’s going to be for everybody. We do a lot of covers, old and new, from bluegrass to Sublime. We’ll be really close to a lot of family. There will be a lot of family there, so there will be a lot of great energy coming off of that.”
“Me and my wife’s number one priority is what are we doing to influence people around us and give back to the things that inspire us,” said White. There’s a number of people that this is going to benefit, from cancer patients to disabled folks. I like to help people directly. I love doing that. The guys that are setting this up they’re doing a good job at pushing the funds where they need to go. That’s why I do this. It brings me a lot of fulfillment to help people out. A lot of people have helped me out, to be honest.
“I couldn’t have done this without a lot of folks. It takes a village to raise a crazy man like me.”
Water access at the Bash in the Bend will be extremely limited. With only two piers on the property, one will not be open for docking purposes so that it can be used as a drop off point.
“We understand that people love to sit on their boats and listen to the music and come via the water,” said Little. “But with limited docking space and the fact that this is a charity event, and if you are just sitting in your boat and you don’t buy a ticket to come in or spend money with the vendors, the charity is losing money. The main thing is this is a charity event.”