Songs4Soldiers a smashing success

Concert attendees watch as fireworks fill the sky during Josh Turner’s performance at Songs4Soldiers in Columbia on Sept. 17.

After a pandemic-related hiatus, Songs4Soldiers returned this year with a bang. 

Founder Dustin Row said through the concert, held Sept. 17-18, his organization raised well over 2019’s total of $142,000. All event proceeds go to combat veterans. 

Friday night’s crowd reached capacity of about 5,000 with ticket sales and Saturday saw well over 4,000, Row said – and this does not even include all the veterans who attended for free. 

“Being an outdoor event, I knew we were going to do it the whole time,” Row said, noting how he knew the 2021 show would go on. “I think somebody had to start doing events again and people were ready for it.”

This year’s headliners were country star Josh Turner on Friday night and classic rockers Night Ranger on Saturday. 

Weber Chevrolet, Budweiser, K-SHE 95 and WIL 92.3 sponsored the fun-filled weekend.

“Josh Turner was probably the biggest country name we’ve ever booked, and I think he proved that,” Row said. 

Before Turner took the stage, Alexandra Kay heated up the crowd. The Waterloo native sang Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl,” which she recently received props from McGraw for after posting her cover on TikTok. 

“She’s a local girl and she’s crushing it out there,” Row said. “You gotta display the hometown girl, man!” 

Row took the stage himself on Saturday, drumming with his band Dazed and Confused STL. 

He said while he loves the hustle and bustle of running a successful event, he enjoyed being able to see his work come alive from a new vantage point. 

“Events are hectic, and if nobody knows about it, that means we did our job,” Row said. “So, being able to take an hour off and getting rid of my radio to just go play some rock n’ roll with my best friends in front of 4,000 people, it’s just my little soul paycheck. I get to sit back while playing and look at it all.” 

Row and his team met a unique challenge this year, as he previously told Friday’s crowd. Josh Turner’s two tour buses had broken down just as they had crossed the Iowa border into Missouri. 

Chris Tettaton, this year’s “runner” for the artists, and father-son duo “Duff” and Jared Schmidt helped transport Turner’s crew and equipment to Columbia – making it just in time for the sound check. 

“That doesn’t happen at other events, but … in Columbia, in Monroe County, we just band together and make it happen,” Row said of the rescue. 

Row attributes another successful year in the books not only to these heroes, but also the event’s sponsors, partners and, of course, volunteers. 

“I would just like to express my insanely deep gratitude to the over 300 people who volunteered over the course of the weekend, and first and foremost to all of the sponsors because they made the event happen,” Row said. “The City of Columbia was just such a great partner and the police department, fire department, public works, City Hall – it was such a team effort this year and it felt so good to be all working together on this thing … It’s nice to feel welcome.” 

For more information or to donate to Songs4Soldiers, visit

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Madison Lammert

Madison is a reporter at the Republic-Times. She has over six years of experience in journalistic writing. Madison is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mass communications. Before graduating and working at the Republic-Times, Madison worked for SIUE’s student newspaper, The Alestle, for many years. During her time there she filled many roles, including editor-in-chief. When she is not working, she likes to spend time with her dog and try new restaurants across the river.
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