Lebanon comes together for benefit concert

Apr. 17—When flooding hit Wilson County last month, several businesses shuttered doors to rebuild and some still don't know when they will be able to re-open. With hope of easing that burden, community organizations are throwing a flood relief benefit concert April 24 on the Castle Heights Wilson Bank and Trust west lawn.

The event is organized by Historic Lebanon, a group of local community leaders who collaborate under the National Main Street Program. Historic Lebanon's Executive Director Kim Parks is one of the key individuals behind this benefit.

However, its a team effort as she puts it.

"After reaching out to the community, everybody's pitching back in."

Parks said this is the first time with Historic Lebanon that she's had the chance of doing a benefit concert, but that the list of groups and people offering to lend a hand keeps getting longer.

"We are going to work with the city as to how best distribute the money to those impacted by the flood," Parks said. "We want to help businesses and individuals alike."

To pull something like this off, Parks knew she would have to enlist the right people, so she called David Hale of Hawk Specialty Services.

Hawk Speciality Services is a Lebanon-based, full-service event company that has worked with several benefit concerts.

Hale said as soon as Parks called and asked, "We jumped right on board."

Hawk will be providing all the sound and lighting equipment for the concert, as well as stage management personnel, but Hale said this goes beyond just lending a hand and raising money.

"We also want this to be a strong showing that we are a united community and are behind those businesses that had a loss," he said. "Look on the fence at the Little League park. Those names are the companies that make the community go. And those are the same names that are impacted by disasters like this."


Several bands have volunteered to perform for free.

The show kicks off at 5 p.m. with Lain Tomlinson and Austin Slade. Tomlinson is a mathematics professor at Cumberland University. Slade, a Lebanon native, wrestled for the Phoenix, but he's turning his attention to music. The two met as volunteers at the Wilson County Fairgrounds and have been honing their skills together ever since.

Tomlinson grew up in Mt. Juliet, but his grandfather ran a Western store just off the Lebaon square. He has had fond memories of visiting. Besides his childhood connection, Tomlinson, who lives in Lebanon now, has found kinship with several square front businesses.

"When they asked me to do this it was a great opportunity. I have a lot of friends who have stores on the square, like Split Bean, Poppy's, the bookstore and the chamber."

Tomlinson's bandmate, Slade, said that he first found out he was playing the concert when he saw the flier. All the same, Slade said, "Its more of an honor than an opportunity, since I'm from the community.

Slade said that his primary focus as an artist is writing and storytelling.

"It allows me to be open about myself."

Through the adverse weather tragedies over the past year, he said there's no shortage of inspiration to pull from.

"This being a moment of vulnerability, I want to take that moment and be vulnerable with the crowd," he said. "Everybody has been through situations you hear in songs. It may not be the exact same situation, but that's the trick to great writing."

Slade acknowledged that coming together represents a great milestone after missing a year with the pandemic. He said he hopes it leads to people being interactive with each other.

"To see a crowd coming together for a benefit like this, and knowing we are able to support that, it shows how strong Lebanon is together. We are gonna reach for the sky on this one."

Following the Tomlinson-Slade ensemble, the Lance Pierce Band will perform. While the band's namesake is from Shelbyville, the keyboardist, Jim Mexdorf, calls Lebanon home.

Pierce said when Mexdorf approached him about doing the benefit concert, he said yes right away.

"Music is a big part of everybody's life. Anytime you can offer that to help people get through tough times of their lives, it's a good thing," said the Middle Tennessee rocker.

Pierce was living in Old Hickory during the 2010 flood. The thing he remembers most from that experience was the volunteers.

"For weeks and weeks, the Red Cross would come through with food trucks. Everybody would get donations," he said. "Get up the next morning and there was always something that was donated on your porch."

The Lance Pierce Band also includes Michael Richardson on guitar, Kevin Reed on bass and Mike Catalano on drums.

The final band performing will be Sweetn3, led by Rusty Sweeton.

Sweeton's band has become a mainstay around Lebanon, performing at such venues as Sammy B's and the Lebanon Country Club.

"Once a month we used to turn Sammy B's into a rock and roll club," Sweeton said.

When Hale reached out to Sweeton about the benefit concert, Sweeton said, "How could I say no?"

The musician of over 40 years said it seemed like everyone was impacted by the flood and he wanted to do something that would help. He and his bandmates, Scott Kirk, Duane Dursma, Jimmy Watley and Dawn Wright, plan to perform the stuff their fans know them for, but Sweeton said, "We've been working on some new songs."

Business owners reactions

Jennie Walpole owns Asante Hair Salon. Her storefront sustained so much damage that it requires a full demolition of everything inside. She doesn't know when she will be able to return to it.

Finding the silver lining, Walpole said of the community, "I think it's great that our city stands behind its small business owners.

"There are so many ways they support us on a daily basis but to go above and beyond to bring our community together too is truly amazing. It's very appreciated by my family."

Chris Cox owns Split Bean Roasting Co. While his shop didn't bear as much damage as some fronts, he's still witnessed the community coming together to pick up the pieces left in the flood's wake.

"I have seen the community rally around the business on the square really well.

Cox said he's been moved by the storefronts that weren't destroyed allowing business owners who did lose everything to erect pop up shops in their stores.

Mayor Rick Bell said he's come to expect this kind of outpouring of support from the city.

"I'm proud of the city and how we always come together as a community when times are hard. The people who live here are what makes Lebanon such a strong community because they always show their heart.

The mayor said he was glad to have an opportunity to make a difference with the concert.

No charge

Parks said that admission to the concert would be free. In her mind, this concert is as much for the residents of Lebanon who were victimized by the flooding as the store owners.

She said she didn't want anyone missing out on this community gathering just because they couldn't afford a ticket.

"A lot of people are struggling financially for a number of reasons right now, so we just ask people to give what they can," Parks said. "At the end of the day it is still a fundraiser, so all donations are welcome."

Donations made be made at the concert. Before the concert, donations can be made at Pinnacle Bank. Ask for the Historic Lebanon Flood Relief Concert. Online donations can be made at: https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=CG86GUE6GMAMA