A scene from last year's Pietown Gospel Music Festival.
ALTON – Final preparations are under way for this year’s second annual Pietown Gospel Music Festival and third annual Ron Dunning Memorial Car Cruise on July 29-30 outside Main Street United Methodist Church.
“We just had our last steering committee meeting and all of the I’s are being dotted and T’s crossed,” organizer Greg Gelzinnis said. “We have over a dozen community churches directly involved this year, and if you add the churches represented through Encounter and the Riverbend Community Gospel Choir, that number goes up to over 40.”
“Our choir members and church have been so excited about participating in the Gospel Music Festival this year and are so honored to do so,” Brenda Lancaster, minister of music and director of the Greater St. James Baptist Church Choir, said. “And at a time when there is so much unrest in the world, our country and the metropolitan area, the music festival is such a wonderful way to bring all of us together … black, white, everyone.”
Friday’s musical lineup will feature the Salvation Army Brass Band, Greater St. James Baptist Church Gospel Choir, the Encounter Youth Choir (over 60 voices) joined by Encounter Alumni (Encounter is in its 44th season and some of the original choir members will be in attendance), and the finale for Friday will include Elvis impersonator Steve Davis doing an Elvis gospel tribute.
Saturday’s lineup will begin with the New Jerusalem Singers from Springfield, starting at 11 a.m., and the stage will change almost hourly featuring the Gibson Girls, Kyle Greenwell, Fred Church & The Spirituals, The Chosen – Pastor’s Choir, Bread of Life Fellowship Praise Team, Union Baptist Church Praise and Worship Team, Nevr2L8 Contemporary Christian Band, and heading up the finale and celebrating their 14th anniversary – the Riverbend Community Gospel Choir.
“The finale of our music festival will be kind of like the Grammys with everyone taking the stage for a final musical collaboration that is guaranteed to be a historic unifying anthem,” Gelzinnis said.
Terry Steward is again heading up the third annual Ron Dunning Memorial Car Cruise from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.
“Our car cruise is open to any vehicles – classics, antiques, street rods, and even motorcycles,” Steward said. “While an official registration is not necessary, I am asking that those interested in coming please contact me at (618) 567-7012 so that we can have some idea of how many vehicles to prepare for.
“Our cruise has doubled in size each year and we expect 2016’s cruise will be the largest one yet … a great tribute to Ron Dunning,” he said.
Food choices will include barbecue pork steaks, Schwegel’s famous brats, quarter-pound hot dogs, grilled corn on the cob, ice-cold watermelon by the slice, kettle corn, nachos, tacos in a bag, crushed fruit lemonades, snow cones, fried fish sandwiches, ice cream and ice-cold Dr. Pepper products. Souvenir booths, handmade items and informational booths also will be present at this year’s festival. Abundant Life Community Church also will bring their special event trailer to the music festival on Friday. The trailer is home to a giant inflatable slide and other games and activities for children.
“To have an event like this for our community that is free (except for food purchases) really makes it accessible to everyone – a great way to bring our community together…and it just couldn’t be done without the generosity of our business and individual contributors,” committee member Lt. Bryan Ellison of the Salvation Army said.
Additional and up-to-the-minute information on the festival can be found at pietowngospelmusicfest.com. Specific performance times of groups can be found under “The Artists” tab. Primary parking for the event will be available at Calvary Baptist Church, US Bank (Upper Alton), the Franklin Masonic Lodge, and if needed, at Alton Middle School. There will be limited seating for the event in the festival food court for those who are dining, so attendees are encouraged to bring their own portable lawn chairs for seating during the musical performances.
The festival will go on rain or shine (with some necessary modifications). Performances, exhibits and food will be moved inside the church at 1400 Main St. in the event of inclement weather.