The Music City Guitar Tour is underway in Middle Tennessee.
Unlike a typical tour, the Music City Guitar Tour puts autographed guitars and cash in the hands of non-profit organizations. Those organizations can then use the guitars as a fundraising instrument.
"We love charities and non-profits, and we love those guys because they do a lot for people that maybe can't do it for themselves," said Tim Leeper, contest founder and organizer. "They help and they give back, and a lot of times, it's a thankless job. And we understand that. We recognize that. They're the people that really do make our town a good place to live."
Leeper first set aside his duties at Tim Leeper Roofing three years ago to set up the tour. Since then, he's been buying Gibson guitars and collecting celebrity autographs for the annual contest.
This year, 10 autographed guitars are up for grabs with signatures from Ricky Skaggs, Daryl Worley, Kings of Leon, The Black Crows and many more. Even the guys of Duck Dynasty have signed on to be part of the tour.
"Never once have I had anybody say, 'Yeah, it's kind of an inconvenience.' It's always been a pleasure for 'em to do it," Leeper said.
In addition to the autographed guitars, trophy guitars with cash prizes will be awarded to the top three non-profit organizations.
The organizations are nominated to be part of the contest by those inside and outside the charity. The nominations were vetted for non-profit status and local roots, and then narrowed down to a list of 22, including well-known organizations like Soles4Souls and Martha O'Bryan Center and lesser known organizations like Against the Grain and Instruments of Joy.
Winners are chosen by public votes received through the tour Web site, Facebook, and Twitter. As of Wednesday morning, more than 11,000 votes had been cast through the Web site alone.
"Last year, we had about 1600 votes. And this year, we had 1600 votes in about 72 hours," Leeper said.
He added, "The purpose of the vote is really not so much about guitars as it is every time they get shared on Facebook or Twitter, that's an opportunity for the light to shine on them and their charity and what they do."
When asked why Leeper would give up so much of his time at his privately-owned business for such a charitable endeavor, he told Nashville News 2, "This is the highlight of my year. We're here for a bigger purpose than just to make money. We're here for a bigger purpose than just business."
Voting for the Music City Guitar Tour continues through October 15. Prizes will be awarded to the winning non-profit organizations at a presentation dinner at Maggiano's on October 18.
To learn more about the charities or to vote, visit the Music City Guitar Tour Web site or Tim Leeper Roofing Facebook page. Votes can also cast on the Tim Leeper Roofing Twitter page.