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Tri-State Gospel Music Association Sing coming to fairgrounds

| Wednesday, May 22, 2002

DUNBAR - "If they could fill the fairgrounds for the world, why couldn't we fill it for the Lord• I've had a vision of a gospel sing there for so many years," says Nancy Weltz of Connellsville, one of the organizers of the second annual Tri-State Gospel Music Association Sing coming to the Fayette County Fairgrounds June 7, 8 and 9.

Although gospel sings aren't as popular in the Fay-West area as in some other parts of the country, they have been catching on over the past several years. Last year's "Sing" attracted more than 50 groups and hundreds of listeners over three days.

This year, Weltz says she has had to turn groups away. "We didn't have room to take all the groups that requested to sing this year."

More than 70 groups will perform, including Romans VIII, Weltz's group.

Gospel music gets toes tapping and souls flying, often better than preaching, say the event's organizers.

"Music sometimes touches people more than listening to a pastor in church," says Arlene Bock of Lemont Furnace, who sings with her husband, Ron, in the group, Free Spirit.

"Gospel music touches people's heartstrings," says Weltz. "Especially now, with the world so unsure, they're looking for something stable. When they hear about the precious promises of God, that's the only thing that's stable."

Weltz has personal experience with the power of gospel. She explains:

"I lost my husband two years ago and got through it with gospel music and gospel friends."

Ruby Cordell of Scottdale, who performs with her son, Chris, as The Cordells, agrees that gospel lovers have a special bond. "We love sharing the Lord's love for the world with the world. Last year's jam session Friday night lasted for hours. It was great. At gospel sings, people really appreciate the informal atmosphere."

"It doesn't matter whether you're a Baptist, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, everybody gets together to share the music," adds Bock.

Bands will perform in the Indoor Arena of the Fayette County Fairgrounds, so weather will not affect the gospel sing.

The free event begins 6 p.m. June 7 with prayer. The Steel City Quartet will perform, followed by the P.A.T. Drama Team from the World Outreach Church of Connellsville, and then an open mike session. Anyone who signs up can perform one or two songs, depending on the turnout.

"You get all kinds at the open mike," says Weltz.

"It's an opportunity for people to get started," adds Bock.

Saturday's events will get under way at noon with prayer. God's Choir from St. Paul's Church in Uniontown will be the first performers, followed by other groups scheduled for 10 minutes each. At 5 p.m., Virginia's High Country Gospel will perform.

Puppet shows and children's activities will take place Saturday and Sunday in the building behind the Indoor Arena.

Sunday, the gospel sing will begin with an ecumenical church service led by Brian Rosenbaum of Mechanicsburg. March Forth will perform following the service. Free Spirit will perform at 5 p.m.

With the number of groups registered, Weltz says that a complete schedule will not be available until each day's performance, but that, in addition to the above groups, Grateful Hearts Ministries, Willing Servants, Solid Ground, Abraham's Promise, the Rev. Don Amon and Don and Mary Hough are among those scheduled to appear.

Tri-State Gospel Music Association President Charlie Bowlin is also scheduled to participate. Free Spirit and Chosen Ones will perform and do the sound for the weekend. Free will offerings will be accepted. Food will be available.

Groups or individuals interested in setting up a food booth may call Weltz at 724-626-6528 or Bock at 724-438-7861 for a reservation.

Hobo camping is available at the fairgrounds. Camper hookups cost $10.

"This is such an exciting event, we hope for a great turnout," says Weltz. "What better way to spend a weekend than singing for the Lord?"

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