Palmetto church postpones second annual Gospel in the Park

ejohnson@bradenton.comJune 9, 2012 

PALMETTO -- Expected rain has put a bit of a damper on Mount Raymond Full Gospel Baptist Church's second annual Gospel in the Park.

Originally scheduled for this afternoon, the event of singing, dancing, eating, enjoying fellowship and worshiping, has been postponed until July 28.

This last-minute change of plans means one thing: more time for planning.

"Last year it was just an idea," said Jay Simmons, assistant coordinator of the event. "(We learned) it takes more time, effort and commitment."

Simmons said church staff and the youth department, which hosts the free event open to the public, started planning much earlier than last year with the hopes to have a larger crowd.

"They put a whole lot of effort into it this year," said Rev. Jason Williams, senior pastor.

Simmons said an estimated 100 to 150 people attended the inaugural event last year.

"We're aiming for at least 500 to 700, if not 1,000," he said.

Simmons calls the event a "gospel extravaganza ... kind of like a gospel block party."

Vendors will sell food, and a play area, including a bounce house and dunk tank, will be available for children.

Tampa Bay area soloists, choirs and dance teams will take the event's stage.

Mount Raymond's Divine Destiny Dance Team, with members ranging from7 to 21 years old, will perform.

Jakaiya Johnson, 17, helps choreograph some of the numbers.

She said getting to perform at Gospel in the Park "means the community appreciates us and the stuff we do."

The team practices two hours every Saturday.

The team's coordinator, Tillwanda Jones, said the team will sell food at the event in order to buy new uniforms.

"These young people go through things, but they understand that they always have someone to talk to," Williams said. "I'm proud of them. They show commitment and love what they do."

Simmons said that is one of the most important aspects of the event: to bring the community together and show a positive reflection of youth.

"The past six months we've learned about young people getting killed, shot," Simmons said. "We wanted to show the community not all young people are getting in trouble. We do have young people graduating and pursuing a career and on the right track.

"If you want to see positive young people, people with the right mindset on what they should be doing, come out to Gospel in the Park and you'll see young people praising God."

The outside event is now scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. July 28 at Mount Raymond Full Gospel Baptist Church at 2410 Fourth Ave. E. in Palmetto.

Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs.

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