TBR — Richmond, VA — After non-stop rain, thunderstorms and continued scorching temperatures for almost a week, the clouds were finally pushed out of the way by the sun making way for dry conditions for the 2nd Annual Gospel Music Fest with “The Belle”.
Once again, held in Byrd Park at Dogwood Dell in Richmond, VA on the second Sunday of July, the 2nd Annual Gospel Music Fest with “The Belle” co-hosted by BET’s own Dr. Bobby Jones and Sheilah Belle, became one of the largest outdoor Gospel concerts on the East Coast, thanks in part to the city of Richmond Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities and an incredible line up of talent.
Spearheaded by visionary Sheilah Belle, a.k.a. The Belle, along with a strong support team of volunteers including Cheryl Robinson, Corey Goss, Theodore Durham, Joyce Harding, Anita Pouncy, Shonda Monque Barnes, Faren Frederick, Patrick, Gwendolyn Douglas, Roberta, Chelsea, Camille Palmer and roughly 30 others, this event quickly became THEE event to attend.
It was in 2010 when Gospel Music Fest with “The Belle” was first introduced to Richmond, VA. With close to 5,000 in attendance, the event turned out to be bigger and better than anyone expected. However this year, only God knew what to expect as the crowd swelled to between 12,000 to 15,000 to see more than 20 groups, ensembles and soloists sing and give glory and honor to God.
Unlike last year, the Gospel Festival offered a pre-show that was hosted by Virginia Beach’s own Corey P. Goss and showcased talent from area youth including Ty Francis and Nyaisha.
The opening prayer was delivered by Dominique Stroman and the national anthem was performed by Laymentha Reed Guy and Sounds of Rapture.
Also as a part of the official opening, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones delivered the welcome and thanked The Belle for the vision and for a job “well done.”
At 5:00p.m. the first group stepped off…Minister James Johnson and the Voices of Cedar Street. Now recognized as one of the hottest new groups in Richmond, VA, they set the tone for the evening with great energy, a great sound and made it clear why they were chosen to perform on the next level of Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound in the coming months in Washington, D.C.
Also performing, all the way from London, England was Jay Ess and Deborah who were simply amazing.
Representing the quartets was Soul Tempo. They brought many in the crowd to their feet during their performance including Dr. Bobby Jones, who truly enjoyed their performance.
Jr. Caravan member Monica Lisa Stevenson also did an incredible job as she brought her strong traditional core sound to a heavily populated Baptist audience.
New comer Bryon Pound also threw the audience for a loop when he stepped on stage and performed his two hit songs, including “Smile” that’s starting to show moment on the charts.
Representing the Hampton Roads area was Minister Earl Bynum and the Mount Unity Mass Choir. Known for his impeccable style and stage showmanship, Minister Bynum once again, did not disappoint as he and his choir performed and dedicated one of their songs to “The Belle.” It was truly a special moment.
Another long time Richmond favorite to perform that Mayor Dwight Jones say he was waiting to see was Cora Armstrong. They were so compelling; Dr. Jones invited her to perform on his show. Needless to say, but the group took a minute to shout and thank God for the opportunity given to them by Dr. Jones.
Bringing down this year was the one and only, Richmond’s long time favorite, Larry Blandand the Volunteer Choir. Once their group was introduced, the crowd immediately began to cheer, stand up and waited with anticipation for their first note. They were simply phenomenal. From their showmanship, professionalism, song selection to their over all presentation, Larry Bland and the Volunteer Choir still have that crowd drawing power.
Additionally because of the crowd and the many performers, this event made history.
Brian Little, Cultural Arts Manager for the City of Richmond, Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities said, “With July 4th being out largest event, Gospel Music Fest with The Belle,’ became our second largest event here in the park.”
As for next year, Little says, “Gospel Music Fest with The Belle WILL return.” However with a growing crowd of 10,000 its location may have to be revisited.
Also stopping through to show their support was Delegate Deloris McQuinn, Kenny Taylor, P.T. Brown, Plunky, Jason Gregory and Karen Shelton Williams.
* To everyone who came out and supported the 2nd Annual Gospel Music Fest with The Belle, I humbly say thank you for your support, prayers and being in attendance.
To Mayor Dwight Jones, Brian Little and James Opher, this event could not have happened without you. Thank you for your support and being there!