Country stars came to the Grand Ole Opry House Wednesday night to lend their talents to a TNN special, Wonders of Wildlife Honors: A Concert for Conservation. TNN viewers can see the concert at 8 p.m. ET/PT Tuesday. Tracy Byrd, spokesman for TNN Outdoors, hosted the two-hour gala featuring performances by Kenny Rogers, John Anderson, Terri Clark, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Bryan White, Travis Tritt, the Wilkinsons and Andy Griggs.
Bass Pro Shops, the Wonders of Wildlife museum in Springfield, Mo., and TNN jointly presented four conservation crusaders with Wonders of Wildlife Honors awards. Renowned outdoorsman and sports broadcaster Curt Gowdy, one of the four winners, received the Lifetime Commitment Award. Gowdy said his chief concern is keeping natural habitats clean.
Backstage, some artists stated they are not hunters but love the outdoors and fishing. Kenny Rogers credited his mother for his love of fishing. “As a kid, my mother was one of the great fishermen of our times,” he said. “She fished on a daily basis. She is the only person I ever met that loved the idea of being out fishing, more than catching fish.”
The Wilkinsons joked about 18-year-old Amanda’s fishing expertise, but she addressed the importance of shows like the TNN special and said, “We are advanced divers and love marine life and look forward to preserving it.” In October, at the invitation of undersea explorer and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau, the Wilkinsons participated in a benefit for Grand Cayman marine sanctuaries. Cousteau will join them at Fan Fair in June.
Bryan White’s favorite outdoor memories included fishing out of inner tubes with his father and brother. In one humorous incident his father started spinning around after hooking and reeling in his own wader’s boot (with his foot still in it).
Brad Paisley admitted that his love of fishing ended a relationship when, after a day on the lake, he arrived hours late to help his girlfriend move.
In taped segments during the special, various artists, celebrities and dignitaries including Reba McEntire, Ed Asner and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush praised conservation efforts of individuals and groups who are making a difference. Host Byrd announced an 800 number to be posted during the Tuesday telecast through which viewers can make donations to conservation organizations.
The spirited audience saw many fine performances. John Anderson won thunderous applause for his hit, “Seminole Wind.” Travis Tritt commented backstage that he was blown away by the warm reception he received when he performed his hit “Where Corn Don’t Grow” and his new single, “Best of Intentions.”
In closing the show, Byrd led the audience in “This Land Is Your Land.” He said the purpose of the show is to heighten national awareness of the need for conservation and he hopes Wonders of Wildlife will become an annual event. A benefit CD to aid conservation groups has been released in conjunction with the show. It features tracks by some of the artists who appear in the TNN special.