Hats Off Through the Years
On Monday, January 29th, we will be hosting our 20th Anniversary Hats Off to High Hopes event!
Begun in 1996, Hats Off is our largest annual fundraising event to help us bring hope to children and families in our community. It only gets bigger and better every year, and this year we are looking forward to our third appearance at the Ryman Auditorium, the Church itself! Taking the stage to support High Hopes will be Jonathan Cain of the band Journey, the Canadian duo High Valley, Dana Glover, and the Bass Brothers! Of course, Hats Off Royalty, Tim Nichols will be there to help complete the evening. As the exciting night approaches, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at Hats Off through the years.
The inaugural Hats Off to High Hopes benefit was held on a Sunday at the Wildhorse Saloon, way back in the previous millennium. Set for May 19th, 1996, the event advertised Tony Arata and future long-time sponsor Mark Sanders as hosts. On May 18th the following year, Mark Sanders welcomed Tim Nichols to the stage to kick off what would be a beautiful partnership. The Wildhorse provided the setting once again, jump-starting a tradition which would stand for the first several Hats Off events. In 1998, LeeAnn Womack added her name to the marquis for an April 25th event to remember. LeeAnn gave an encore performance on April 9th as the millennium turned in the year 2000. Performing alongside her was Linda Davis, and “Big Deal Tune Writers” Mark D. Sanders and Tim Nichols played host once again.
In 2001, Mark and Tim took the Wildhorse stage once again on April 22nd, inviting special guests for entertainment. The poster for the 2001 Hats Off featured various cartoon hats with jokes for captions, like the classic, “The Other Rhinestone Cowpoke” beneath a gaudy sombrero-type topper claiming, “Drue Smith loans Elton John one of her more sedate hats to cover his hair plugs – and a legend is born.” The 2003 edition of Hats Off headlined at the Wildhorse for the last time. With a Wild West/America’s Most Wanted theme, the outrageous poster summoned “All You Desperados” to Hats Off for “Fiddles, Vittles, & Brew!” on April 6th. And of course, repeat offenders Mark Sanders and Tim Nichols once again took the reins of our biggest annual event. The Factory at Franklin played host to the 10th Hats Off to High Hopes, which featured Tim as host alongside fellow songwriters and performers Billy Dean, Mike Reid, Barry Dean, and Danny Orton. This 2007 iteration was the first in a series of Hats Off events that would take place in the fall, scheduled on a balmy Saturday in November. On November 1st, 2008, more than 300 people gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the Embassy Suites hotel in Franklin. A buffet dinner and host bar were available as the entertainment flowed out, including a special performance by Patty Clark, who was a singer/songwriter turned High Hopes speech therapist at the time. She performed a song called “My Lonely Brother,” which was written by Bailey Patton for his twin brother Barrett, both then 9 years old. Barrett and Bailey are High Hopes alumni, and sons of current High Hopes preschool teacher Jennifer Patton. Bailey’s song would be an emotional precursor for Barrett’s own appearance at Hats Off many years later.
In October of the following year, another High Hopes alum named Clay Sircy took the mic amidst performances by Keith Anderson and Jason Sellers. The Embassy Suites ballroom was playing host again, and this year paper lanterns in the shape of hot air balloons were the centerpieces at every table as Clay described the successes he had achieved as a young adult thanks, in part, to his time at High Hopes. At the 13th Hats Off event, again at the Embassy Suites, the artwork of High Hopes students adorned the tables. Following a pre-party event hosted in what was then the therapy clinic, the Meyers Brothers Band, Brett James, and Art 4 Sale performed. This was also the first year of many that Jonathan Cain would take the stage for our benefit. The following year, Hats Off took place at the Franklin Marriott in Cool Springs. Tim Nichols and friends were once again our gracious talent and generous hosts. They provided a wonderful evening of entertainment while a silent auction ran smoothly on the side.
Returning to The Factory at Franklin for its 15th anniversary, Hats Off filled Liberty Hall for an evening of Boxwood Bistro catering, music, and comedy. The silent auction that year featured Titans player Jake Locker’s #10 autographed jersey, and performers included Amy Grant and friends, the Make Me Smile band, and native-Knoxvillian comedian Henry Cho. At Hats Off in 2013, which was held only two months prior to our move into our current facility, 300 supporters arrived at the Cool Springs Marriott for a second time. Art 4 Sale performed, as did Tim Rushlow and a magician called Magic Steve. Tim Nichols and Mark Sanders once again combined forces for this 16th Hats Off event, at which Rich May received that year’s “Heart of High Hopes” award, which was first presented to Vic Brown at Hats Off in 2008 and continued to bear his name. 2014 would bring Hats Off to The Rosewall, where 300 guests came for a seated dinner catered by Kayne Prime. Art 4 Sale made another appearance, listed with David White and Lonestar as performers for the evening. In a hallmark year, Hats Off in 2015 received the honor of being held at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. The event featured Tim Nichols alongside several songwriting friends, including members of Old Dominion, Jamie O’Neal, The Warren Brothers, Lance Miller, and an unforgettable set by Jonathan Cain. But by far the highlight of the evening was Tim’s interview with Barrett Patton, former therapy and preschool student and star of the then brand new promotional video, who thoroughly charmed the audience with his impromptu humor and heartfelt testimony about the real world impact of High Hopes. Barrett knew and proudly performed every word of “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Last year’s 19th Hats Off was a sold-out event, once again at the Ryman. Old Dominion appeared again, as did Tim Nichols, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Matt Jenkins. Following a Green Bay / Titans NFL game at Nissan Stadium, the songwriters performed to an eager crowd from across the country as Chris Jenkins and Gail Powell told true stories of hope and inspiration. This year’s event comes on the heels of the groundbreaking for the High Hopes expansion at 303 High Hopes Ct. As we look forward to opening more therapy spaces, more classrooms, a kindergarten, and much more, we are excited to share with you all the ways we can bless one another this year. Hats Off is bigger and better than ever, and with your help, we will be too.
Come join us on January 29th at 7:30 PM to discover what will happen next at this storied event! Tickets are on sale now!