The performers for the 2012 Quail Unlimited
ALBANY -- While reversing Quail Unlimited's slide to the precipice of bankruptcy fell primarily on Bill Bowles as the national conservation group's executive director, even the workaholic Bowles is not above accepting a little divine assistance now and then.
Bowles was left offering praise to a power outside his typical sphere of influence after a series of serendipitous occurrences left QU to schedule "the greatest list of entertainers in the 26 years" of Quail Unlimited's annual Celebrity Conservation Event.
"I was traveling to Nashville for the Bass Pro Wildlife Expo, and I got a call from Patrick Kilpatrick in Hollywood," Bowles, an Albany native, said as the countdown to the celebrity event wound down last week. "He told me he had an appreciation for what it takes to organize an event like the celebrity quail hunt, and he asked if I'd mind him talking with some celebrities about taking part in the hunt.
"Less than two hours later, when my wife and I walked into the Opryland Hotel for the Bass Pro event, a familiar voice said, 'Hey, Bowles, I need to talk with you.' It was (former Major League baseball star) Ryan Klesko, and he asked if he could extend invitations to athletes who'd never been to the hunt before. I kind of looked to the sky and said, 'OK, Lord, I see you're looking out for me'."
Now, with the help of Kilpatrick, Klesko, Nashville songwriter Bobby Pinson, country music star Jett Williams and her attorney husband Keith Adkinson -- and an assist from The Big Man -- Quail Unlimited is primed for what very well could be its biggest celebrity event ever.
For the first time in the QU event's 26-year run in Albany, participants in the annual landowners appreciation dinner will be entertained by a nationally known act, comedian Killer Beaz. But that Thursday-night event is just the beginning.
After lucky hunters spend the day bagging quail with celebrity participants at area plantations Friday, Williams and Adkinson have lined up a "Legends of the Opry" showcase that will feature country stars Moe Bandy, Larry Cordle, Jim Ed Brown and Jeremy Parsons
Saturday's QU finale offers so much entertainment, even non-hunting attendees may not want to go home. Nashville singer/songwriters Pinson, Brent Jones and Rivers Rutherford will offer an intimate "writers in the round" show during dinner, but that's just an appetizer for the evening's entertainment.
Country recording artists Ashton Shepard, Keith Anderson, Andy Griggs, Eddie Raven and Southwest Georgia's Daryl Singletary will play "four or five songs each," and they'll be followed by The Port Chuck Band, a collection of actors from the daytime drama "General Hospital."
Closing out Saturday's festivities will be local favorites Relapse.
"When BP (Pinson) told me he could bring entertainment down for the Celebrity Conservation Event, I told him I'd like to have an event that the local supporters of Quail Unlimited could afford," Bowles said. "I know there are a lot of people in Albany and Southwest Georgia who have always wanted to attend (the event) but just couldn't afford to. And since we were coming back to the (Albany) Civic Center (after two years away), I knew we'd have a place that would hold a lot of people.
"I told BP I'd like to have a show that a family of four could attend for $100 or less. And he came through in a big way."
Indeed, general admission tickets for Friday's show are only $20, while tickets to Saturday's performances are $25 for general admission and $28 for reserve seating.
"When Bobby, who is a friend of Ryan Klesko's, called me, one of the first things he asked was if we'd like to invite Killer Beaz to perform," Bowles said. "I'd just seen him in Atlanta three nights before that, and he was hilarious. I told Bobby I thought the landowners would appreciate him, and he said, 'I'll get him there.'
"He kept making suggestions and asking if he could do this or that, and I kept telling him I wanted his help. Finally, he just said he'd take care of the entertainment if I wanted him to, and I said, 'Consider me moved over and out of the way'."
Williams, meanwhile, has become a regular at the QU Celebrity Conservation Event, and she agreed to organize a country music show for the second consecutive year. But her and Adkinson's contributions went beyond entertainment this year.
"Duck Head apparel was looking for a lady outdoors spokesperson, and Jett was a natural," Bowles said. "She loves to hunt and fish, her father (Hank Williams Sr.) had been a spokesperson for the company before, and she's a person of great character.
"After the company's president talked with Jett and Keith, Keith called me and asked if (Quail Unlimited) would be interested in Duck Head becoming a sponsor. They wanted to be where Jett was, so Keith gave me a phone number and said the president of the company was waiting for my call. The company not only came on board as a sponsor, they've already sent us (complementary) clothing for the participants, and the president of the company is coming to the event."
And while Bowles and QU are thankful for such high-profile national support, he said one of his primary goals is to get continued buy-in from the local community.
"This event is so important for Quail Unlimited as a national organization, but on a personal level it's important to me in other ways," he said. "Albany is my hometown, and I want people in this region to know that they're a big part of the organization. That's why the decision to move the national headquarters here was made.
"We're thankful for every company, every organization and every person who has gotten involved."
Gold sponsors for the QU Celebrity Conservation Event are Budweiser, Duck Head and WFXL Fox 31 TV; while Silver sponsors include the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Phoebe Community Visions, Gander MTN, Merry Acres Inn and the Petty Family Foundation.
Bronze sponsors include Art Sign, the Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau, HeritageBank of the South, The Albany Herald, Coca-Cola Bottling Co., United Distributors Inc. and WALB-TV.
Tickets for Friday's and Saturday's QU events are available at the Albany Civic Center box office, at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.ticketmaster.com.