Entertainment, On A High Note

Craig Campbell Celebrity Cornhole Challenge champions a worthy cause

With so many diverse events in Nashville, a cornhole tournament is not one that typically comes to mind. But country singer Craig Campbell found a niche and went for it and began the Craig Campbell Celebrity Cornhole Challenge, which held its 4th annual event in downtown Nashville as part of CMA Fest week. At the event, we had the chance to chat with some of the participants before they hit the pavement for the cornhole competition.

Craig Campbell poses for a photo before the 4th annual Craig Campbell Celebrity Cornhole Challenge during CMA Fest week. PHOTO COURTESY XPRESSIVE IMAGES BY JAMIE

Craig Campbell poses for a photo before the 4th annual Craig Campbell Celebrity Cornhole Challenge during CMA Fest week. PHOTO COURTESY XPRESSIVE IMAGES BY JAMIE

The mastermind behind the cornhole extravaganza, country music singer Craig Campbell, explained the inspiration behind the event that brings awareness to Fight Colorectal Cancer, saying that his dad was 36-years-old when he died of colon cancer and had he been educated on the issue, he may have been cured. “So that’s why I wanted to do something. I wanted to do something fun, but I also wanted to have something to bring awareness to colon cancer,” Campbell explained. “Colon cancer is very preventable and it’s very treatable and that’s just what we want everybody to know. So it’s always been my passion, my message.” The singer also pairs his love of sports with entertainment, telling us about his passion for hunting and fishing, which are represented on his new single “Outskirts of Heaven,” a song about the beauty of growing up in the country. “When I get to heaven, I hope it’s just like that,” he said. “It’s a song I’m very, very proud of.”

Canadian country music singer Brett Kissel told us about how he got involved with this event, saying how he met Campbell at an event for William Morris Agency where they hit it off and Campbell asked if Kissel would want to participate. “I said ‘hey, charity, cornhole, cold beer, I’m in,’” Kissel said. He also told us about an incredible story involving a condolence letter he wrote to Johnny Cash. Kissel was 12-years-old at the time he sent a sympathy letter to the Man in Black in May 2003 after the death of his wife, June Carter Cash. On the morning of Sept. 12, 2003, Kissel received some shocking news.

Craig Campbell and Kristian Bush play a round of cornhole. PHOTO COURTESY XPRESSIVE IMAGES BY JAMIE

Craig Campbell and Kristian Bush play a round of cornhole. PHOTO COURTESY XPRESSIVE IMAGES BY JAMIE

“My mom wakes me up in the morning she says ‘I’ve got some good news and some bad news.’” The good news: Kissel’s concert in his hometown that night sold out. The bad news: Johnny Cash had passed away. “I was devastated because he was my hero,” Kissel said. Later that day, his dad came home and handed him a large package. When he opened it, he was met with an 8×10 photo of the legend with a personal message that read “To Brett: Jesus first. Johnny Cash.” “I got it and I couldn’t believe it,” Kissel said. “It’s one of my most prized possessions.” As for what’s on the horizon for the Canadian star, he’ll be opening for fellow hero Garth Brooks next weekend. “I’m just over the moon about that opportunity,” he said.

Mary Sarah Gross, who recently competed on season 10 of “The Voice,” was equally as excited for the event, calling it a “great cause.” When discussing her experience on “The Voice,” Gross gushed about how surreal it was. “It never felt like reality. It literally felt like a dream the entire time, especially working with Blake [Shelton],” she revealed. “He’s such an amazing guy. He’s so sweet, believed in me, and it was just really cool to do that. And the whole experience though, I loved it, I really did, it was a beautiful process.”

Along with helping Campbell with his cause, Gross is also the national ambassador for Caiden’s Hope, a foundation that supports families with premature babies. The organization holds a special place in her heart, as her brother was born at a pound-and-a-half. She’s also involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) since her brother also has type 2 diabetes. “So those are the two really important foundations in my life,” she said.