Actually, it began with a Pre-Cruise BBQ on the lawn of the Harbor House Hotel in Galveston. Pleasant weather , Texas BBQ, and a Silent Auction to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims set the stage.
Four of the performers, Trent Willmon, Shelly Fairchild, Jon Randall and Wade Hayes were there to "pick a few" and to mingle with those who'd made it in. Jeff's bus didn't get there until much later in the evening Jeff came out on the sidewalk next to his bus on Thursday morning to talk and visit with those who were waiting on the shuttle to the ship.
Jon Randall's concert was held Thursday night. Meet and Greets for each artist were held on Friday.
GAC (Great American Country Television) cameras were everywhere. Storme Warren had his crew shooting footage for his “Country Across America” show.
Wade and Trent had a joint show on Friday before supper. And were they ever well received!!! After Wade's set of 6 of his familiar songs, he left the room for a short time. While he was out of the room, Storme Warren auctioned a personal serenade from Wade (song of the recipient's choice) to be sung in the recipient's doorway on the ship. The bidding quickly rose to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims. Suzanne Gaedtka of Illinois was the winner. When Wade re-entered the room, one of the musicians on stage spotted him and started a chant of "Wade Wade Wade." It took the audience less than 2 seconds to loudly join in. Wade walked to the stage with a "deer-in-the-headlights" look; he had no clue as to what had transpired. When informed, he was very gallant about the auction.
Saturday morning we were in Progresso, the substitute destination for the closed Cozumel. Since the beach party for the country cruisers had to be canceled, the artists did a "pickin" or "jam" session that afternoon on the raised platform stage next to the pool - open to anyone. It was a good opportunity for the performers to have their music heard by individuals who had never attended a country music show. Of course, it was a treat for the rest of us, too. Wade took a stool and played the guitar for each of the artists, as well as providing some background vocals and leading a song or two himself.
This wasn’t the only jammin’ session. Just the only announced one. One night found the artists around a piano on one of the decks, another had them returning to the pool-side stage after the regular cruise musicians had closed down for the night.
Sunday was a day at sea with all of us looking forward to the final concert performance - Jeff and Shelly headlining it and all of the others joining in for the finale. Wade was on stage for all of Shelly's performance, playing the guitar and being the band leader for Trent's band which was supporting Shelly. Many in the audience and Trent, Shelly and Wade were in Halloween costumes. Trent as a pirate, Shelly as wild-haired rock performer (could it have been Elvis?), and Wade as Gilligan. Who would have thought that the "little buddy" was such a hot guitar player. Lots of fun going on.
One of the fun things about a cruise with country music artists is the way they mix and mingle - from sunning on the deck to eating in the dining room and all points in between. It made for a fun and exciting vacation.
Wade was really a hit with the cruisers. He definitely showed his musical versatility and talent in backing up others when he hadn't played with them before. If there's such a thing as a musician "utility infielder," he's it.