Locals have rewarding experiences as volunteers for the Academy of County Music

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By Hannah Richardson, lifestyleeditor@natchitochestimes.com

Reatha Cox and Rebekah Burleson at the 2017 ACM Awards Show.

Two familiar faces to the City of Natchitoches recently received awards for their dedicated volunteer work for the Academy of Country Music (ACM). Reatha Cox and Rebekah Burleson volunteered at several events leading up to the annual awards show in Las Vegas, such as the Stories, Songs and Stars, Lifting Lives Topgolf Tee-Off and the red carpet event directly before the awards show. This year, they volunteered April 10-13.

Reatha Cox and Rebekah Burleson at the 2018 ACM Awards Show.

Volunteers for the Academy of County Music hail from towns across the country. The ACM established the volunteer awards to recognize them for their dedication and service as they worked alongside staff to ensure the “Week Vegas Goes Country” went off without a hitch.

Cox is the executive director for the First Year Experience and Leadership Development at Northwestern State University. She has been a volunteer for three years and got started mainly because two former students have also been volunteers. “They had been trying to get me to volunteer for years,” said Cox. “I knew they had such a great time doing it and it was a great learning experience for them. They wouldn’t take no for an answer and that was it!”

Volunteers at the Topgolf Tee-Off included, from left, Tanya LaBuick, Alex Oetken, Rebekah Burleson, Reatha Cox, Danee Hunzie and Kelly McCarten.

As a volunteer captain, she assists with the volunteers at various events. “For the last three years, I’ve been involved with guitar signings, the Stories, Songs and Stars event, which is one of our favorites. Rebecca and I helped with the Topgolf Tee-Off with the ACM Lifting Lives, which is the academy’s philanthropic arm.

“At the Stories, Songs and Stars event, I got to work with country music singer Lee Bryce, who was one of the hosts and performers. He played in the golf event a few days before the awards show and we were working the talent for the after-party. Bryce was telling us about his golf game and he was explaining how on his four-man golf team, there was one girl who beat them and how he was writing a song about it.”

From left are Rebekah Burleson, Reatha Cox and fellow volunteers, Karlie Herbert and Ariel Adkins.

The ACM described Cox as a “ball of energy and the epitome of professionalism” as she helped coordinate volunteers at multiple events throughout the week.

Burleson is the assistant director of development at NSU. She has also been a volunteer for the ACM for three years, due to the opportunities the Hospitality Management and Tourism Department provided while she was a student. Burleson offered to assist as much as possible and took on many roles. She was a VIP host at MGM Grand, an event host at ACM Stories, Songs and Stars and part of the talent team for the radio remotes, ACM Lifting Lives Topgolf Tee-Off and ACM Awards red carpet.

“I worked with Reatha a lot, but I did a lot of work with the talent,” said Burleson. “I did the Radio Remotes this year, which meant I took a lot of the talent to different radio stations for interviews. It was a really cool experience to work with the talent. I get to meet and have one-on-one conversations with many of them, including Tracy Lawrence and Martina McBride.” Burleson was also security for the red carpet event. “I worked in a VIP area with the family of the talent.”

Part of their agreement as volunteers is they are not to act like fans. “We are strictly there for the Academy of Country Music and to assist and facilitate the whole process,” said Cox. We work long hours but we have a lot of fun and we never know what we’re going to do next. We may be filling water bins, escorting talent to their seats or working backstage. There are a lot of moving pieces that make it all come together. The ACM does a great job of making every single person have a wonderful experience, from the staff to the fans to the volunteers.”

Cox and Burleson both worked in the hospitality booth and with the ACM Lifting Lives and other events connected to the charitable arm. “It’s been so cool seeing the ins and outs and meeting some of the best people in the staff and other volunteers, who come from all over.”

The pair said they are most definitely going to continue their volunteer work for the ACM. “It’s definitely a lot of work,” said Cox. “When we were headed to the awards show on Sunday for our assignments, Rebekah just looked at me and said, ‘we have walked 53.6 miles’ since our work started that previous Wednesday night.”