Owensboro’s Lip Sync Battle Continues to Shatter Records and Glass Ceilings
Saturday night, a completely sold out crowd (and then some) attended the 6th Annual Puzzle Pieces Lip Sync Battle at the Owensboro Convention Center. The wildly popular and entertaining event has increased it numbers since its inception. Over the last six years, the crowd has grown exponentially as has the money raised. Saturday night's haul? Over $220,000!
That final tally, by the way, grew to over $226,000 on Sunday.
The Lip Sync Battle is one of the most successful fundraising events in our town. I think it's also one of the most important- not because of the power of its fundraising, but rather the power and importance of its commitment to celebrate people. All of them.
I have emceed Lip Sync Battle from the beginning. I have worked behind the scenes from the beginning as well. And what I have come to admire, appreciate and love about the Puzzle Pieces mission of inclusion is that it has far-reaching tentacles beyond the scope of our local residents with developmental disabilities. And, yes! Uplifting that population is the core of what Puzzle Pieces does. But Lip Sync Battle uplifts everyone and gives equal access to the stage and spotlight. The 2024 cast, of nearly 200 people, was the most diverse and inclusive cast in the history of the event. The audience was as well. That goes for the 1600 people who were lucky enough to snag tickets to see the event in person as well as those that opted to buy a virtual link and watch and cheer from home, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and a random bar in Florida.
There were so many incredible moments during the show Saturday and I won't be able to list them all. But I would love to share a few that most stuck with me and truly illustrate why we are better and richer people when the folks across from us are different from us.
While the West Side Dads ultimately lost their battle against City Dads, who came out of virtually nowhere to win Grand Champion, their performance included one of the coolest moments of the night. Jason Koger, who I call Owensboro's Bionic Man, showed off- with choreography no less- the power of robotics. Jason, who lost both hands in a freak ATV accident years ago, now has 'bionic' hands and, during the West Side Dads performance, got to raise his arm to the audience and give his right hand a 360-degree spin.
It was freaking amazing and, in so many ways, representative of the kind of inclusion that Puzzle Pieces strives for. Sure, Jason was born able-bodied, but that accident forced him to reinvent himself and his life. The Jason of today has most certainly eclipsed who he was before and that bionic hand spinning to the West Side Dads soundtrack was a defining wave-your-in-the-air-like-you-just-don't-care moment. There was a time after Jason's accident that he didn't know if that would be possible. Oh, it's more than possible. It happened, we got to watch, be mesmerized by it and cheer it.
And let's talk about the power and significance of Corey Wilford & Friends' performance. Look. Statistically speaking, Owensboro's a predominately white city. Recent town halls and forums hosted by the Harwood Institute all had a common through line. Owensboro is gasping for diversity and inclusion. We have to have more voices at the table. And, let's be honest. We need those voices and faces on stage too. Saturday night, we got it. A friend group of African-American men took the stage and entertained us with a rousing medley of R&B favorites.
It was a showcase that, let's be frank, has been a long time coming. Placed on each man's prop chair was a single, long-stemmed red rose. Corey and Travis and Tyler and Buddy and Jansen and Terrell and Gregory grabbed hold of those roses like they grabbed hold of us. They were strong, sexy, funny, seductive and, most importantly, here. I know there are people in this world who roll their eyes when someone says "Representation matters." But those people are the ones that don't have to worry about it like the rest of us. Representation does matter and that's precisely why Corey's team invited young Addie, Reese and Savi out onto stage to perform with them. Those kids got to join their dads, be seen, and represent in a performance that was long overdue, but completely worth the wait.
I think it's important to talk about sportsmanship as well. The teams that compete in Lip Sync Battle pour their hearts, souls, time and talents into their performances. Yes, it's for charity, but they still want to win. In every single battle Saturday night- from the Education Battle between Daviess County High School and their longtime rivals from Apollo High School, to the Healthcare Battle between Philpot Primary Care and the Chemo Queens, sportsmanship won the night. Almost instantly after winning, each champion team walked across the stage to shake hands with, high five and celebrate the team that placed second.
That dynamic was most evident in The Battle of the Sippers and Spitters. For the second consecutive year, Swedish Match and Glenmore Distillery squared off to fight for the title of People's Champion. That award is given to the team that raises the most money for the cause. Both of those teams committed to raising the most money possible and combined for over $71,000. For perspective, that's more money than the very first Lip Sync Battle made- TOTAL! While both teams wanted to win, it was Glenmore who ultimately took the crown. I was standing on stage situated between the two teams. The energy and respect between them was incredible. The folks at Glenmore were proud to have won, but they were cheering their counterparts from Swedish Match as well. The old adage- Teamwork makes the dream work- is, pardon the pun, right on the money. Despite the fact that there are trophies at stake, Lip Sync Battle is ultimately a team event. And, by supporting the cause, we're all a part of that gloriously large and growing team. Honestly, I am not sure 'team' is even the right word. I think 'family' is more accurate.
And what about that exceptionally moving moment near the end of DJ Shay's number? DJ Shay, by the way, represents in her own right. I am becoming a huge fan. I am also a huge fan of that absolutely epic closing number that featured a cast of dozens from Musick Studios. Those young dancers (and their exceptional leader LeAnne Musick) were unbelievable. But the true showstopping moment of DJ Shay's closer were the dancers from Musick Studios 'All Abilities' Class, who took the stage while DJ Shay lip synced Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." It was so moving and so fun and the perfect way to close out the night's performances. It exemplified the importance and power of inclusion. We all wanna dance. So, why don't we? And Puzzle Pieces Lip Sync proves over and over, we'll have a blast if we all dance together.
That sentiment was echoed, powerfully, by Puzzle Pieces team member Quincy Harris, who also choreographed a couple of numbers for Saturday's show. She shared, "This year hit different at LSB. All the years have been fun and this one just felt different. And I know why. Because the 'entire' community was there together as one and I don't mean the number of people present."
I am not sure we could have imagined the impact this event would eventually have when we launched the first Lip Sync Battle back in 2018. But, we ARE dancing together and Puzzle Pieces has become an expert dance coach. They're leading the way one lip sync at a time. Quite frankly, it's music to my ears, eyes and soul.