The party of the year kicks off this weekend, but it will look a little different than years prior. The Crystal Ball, hosted by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, will make its virtual debut.
The 21st annual Crystal Ball was shifted to a virtual platform, rather than the usual black-tie gala, in response to the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. While guests will no longer have the opportunity to pick out their best suits and ball gowns for the event, it will still carry on the same traditions.
This free event will feature musical performances from Grammy-nominated artists like Curt Chambers and Charlie Worsham. The main presentation, though, will be a tribute to the Star of Hope recipient Charley Pride, a legendary musician from Mississippi who died in December. Before his death, Pride accepted the nomination for the award in October.
“Mr. Pride was Mississippi through and through: ambitious, hardworking, trailblazing, and an endearing soul,” Crystal Ball co-chair Michael Bellipanni said in a statement. “I can vividly remember sitting in my grandfather’s lap on a Saturday night watching Mr. Pride’s performance on Austin City Limits.”
The tribute video will include messages from celebrities like Brad Paisley and Archie Manning. This is the first time that the Star of Hope award will be given posthumously.
Besides the Star of Hope award, which is the highest honor of the night, the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi also honors four individuals or organizations that have served their community during the year.
Bob Dunlap of Batesville was selected as the Dan Maddox Man of the Year. Robin Cocke of Clarksdale was honored as the Margeret Maddox Woman of the Year. The Nonprofit of the Year was named the Heartland Hands Food Pantry. Wade, Incorporated was selected as the Business of the Year.
These recipients were nominated by community members for their dedication to service, and winning this award gives the honorees a chance to highlight the organizations they support.
“There are causes that matter to these individuals,” CFNM President Keith Fulcher said. “It gives the public an opportunity to recognize philanthropists and volunteers.”
The Crystal Ball will also host the annual auction, which went live on Tuesday. Funds raised in the auction will also help support the foundation’s work. Some items that are available to bid on include a seven-night hotel stay in Hawaii, a lunch with Forbes Magazine Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes, and memorabilia signed by Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.
One of the benefits of a virtual event is that it will be available to view multiple times. After making its debut this Saturday, it will also air on PBS in Memphis later this month.
The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi is responsible for supporting nonprofit organizations in the region. The funds raised during this event — which brings in almost $200,000 each year — funds endowments for these charitable organizations across the area. Each year, the foundation gives over $2.5 million in grants.
The Crystal Ball will be available to view Saturday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at www.crystalballgala.org, and viewers can also find it on the foundation’s Facebook page and Youtube channel.
Editor’s note: The DeSoto Times-Tribune is an in-kind media sponsor of the 2021 Crystal Ball.