Why This Moment from Owensboro’s Lip Sync Battle is My Absolute Favorite
Saturday night marked the 6th Annual Puzzle Pieces Lip Sync Battle in Owensboro. By the way, it was a record-setting night that featured some absolutely unforgettable moments. If you ever dreamed of an event that sported its own highlight reel, there were plenty of them over the weekend at the Owensboro Convention Center.
Among the most memorable moments? Lee Upton's selfless surrender of the money he and his team raised.
The Owensboro-based Kentucky Farm Bureau agent gave his team's money to their opponents, the Hose Handlers.
That team is captained by Cathy Pickrell, who lost her daughter Roxy to complications from a brain tumor. The crowd chanted Roxy's name as Puzzle Pieces Executive Director Amanda Owen announced that, over the last three years, over $44,000 has been raised for Puzzle Pieces in Roxy's honor.
Another memorable moment? Without a doubt, the unexpected hilarious performance by RWRA, who the record crowd ended up crowning the Grand Champions of the event. Their "poo"-themed lip sync number was absolutely hysterical and completely on-brand with the mission of the Regional Water Resource Agency.
Then, of course, there was insanely lucrative "money shake" in which the crowd was challenged to donate $1000 so that Vineyard Primary Care, the title sponsor for Lip Sync Battle, would match it. The crowd came through in a monstrous way. The overall total for that shake- over $4700.
And, speaking of money, there was another milestone moment. Amanda Owen announced to the crowd the grand total for the event. It shattered the previous record of $140,000 by over $60,000.
For me, there was another moment that may have stolen the show. Last night marked the unofficial return to the spotlight of Puzzle Pieces' Jeff Rhinerson- the host of the Facebook Live series Live with Jeff.
As you know, we are finally making our way out of the three-year COVID-19 pandemic, which affected many people in an infinite amount of ways. For example, I got COVID in December of 2020 and, while I am recovered, my body hasn't been the same since. I still have lingering issues. And, while a lot of folks have been able to put COVID in the rear view mirror and speed on down the road, it hasn't been that easy for others. That's certainly the case with Jeff.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeff was hosting his weekly Live with Jeff series from his studio at the WBKR offices on Frederica Street here in Owensboro. Each week, he interviewed movers and shakers from the community and got to live out his dream of being a media personality.
He was a special guest on WEHT's Local Lifestyles. He was a prominent voice for Puzzle Pieces. Heck, he basically co-emceed the Lip Sync Battle with Angel and me.
But, then, COVID happened. Jeff went home. And stayed. Live with Jeff stopped filming. Then, adding insult to injury, Jeff broke his back when he fell on ice during a winter storm. He ended up in the hospital for weeks- his health and, more importantly, his spirit were put to the test. And, I'll be honest with you. He wasn't handling it well. At all.
When he recovered and was able to start doing the things he loved again, he just didn't really want to. We were anticipating a big relaunch, a Live with Jeff comeback. It didn't happen. Over the weekend, it may have.
Before the show started, Angel and I were informed that Jeff, though officially "retired", was in the audience. We instantly knew that we were going to recognize him at some point during the show. When the timing seemed right, we did it. I told the crowd that we had a special celebrity guest in the crowd and Angel went down to his table to interview him from the floor. As it turns out, he didn't have to.
"Retired" Jeff wanted on that stage and he marched alongside Angel right up onto it. When he got there, he gave Angel and hug. And then me.
When I put my arms around him, I couldn't help it. The emotions kicked in and I just clutched him as hard as I could. I could hear Jeff saying in my ear, "I know. I know."
My nickname for Jeff is "Mini Me" and I knew what my Mini Me had been through the last three years. I hugged him and cried and couldn't let him go. I knew that, despite all of his apprehension and doubts, that Jeff has just climbed the steps and was finally, finally back where he belongs. And then, he proved it.
He turned to the crowd, basically ripped Angel's mic out of her hand and stood between us to address the audience.
In typical Jeff form, as if he hadn't missed a beat, he said what he wanted to say, stopped talking, handed the mic back to Angel and just walked off stage back to his seat. It was the perfect "mic drop" moment. And though we hadn't seen that "Jeff" in years, it was Jeff personified. I continued to wipe away my tears as the audience clapped and cheered him back to his seat.
At the end of show, just before the big announcement, there he was again- on stage, holding the Community Piece trophy, which is awarded to the Lip Sync Battle team that raises the most money. Jeff proudly handed that trophy off to Glenmore Distillery when their name was announced.
For the last couple of months, Jeff has been sending me text messages. He has been adamant about wanting to come to the station and get all of his stuff out of the Live with Jeff studio.
I haven't let him do it because, selfishly, I don't want him to. I don't think any of us do. I am not buying this idea of "retirement" and, honestly, I refused to accept it.
That's why Saturday night was so important for Jeff's family, friends and fans. At Lip Sync Battle, Jeff was back. Back in his element. Back where he belongs. Will this mark full return of Live with Jeff? I don't know. I certainly hope so. But there is one thing I do know.
Watching Jeff make that walk from his table to the stage and then onto it was the highlight of the Lip Sync Battle for me. It embodies every ounce of Puzzle Pieces' commitment to inclusion, belonging and embrace for its clients. And that embrace- the one I shared with Jeff for what seemed like an eternity, is one I am never going to forget. It took place right in the spot he belongs.