'A great atmosphere': Praise in the Park is Saturday

Contributed photo 

The Gospel Song Birds will host Praise in the Park on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m at the Mack Gaston Community Center. In front is David Arnold. In back, from left, are George Ramsey, Rick Williams, Ladale Howell, Donnie Suttles, Thurman Dozier, the late James Morgan and Eli Ellington. Not pictured are Erick Finley and Donnie Marsh.

When the Rev. James Kirklan started Praise in the Park in 2004, he wanted the event to "reflect on what the community represented, not just the church."

"It started as an outreach event for Bridging the Gap Ministries, to bring community and church members together," said Kirklan, the founder and former pastor of the church.

Now an annual event, Praise in the Park seeks to provide an opportunity for community members to fellowship together and have a good time. This year it is on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Mack Gaston Community Center.

The event is hosted this year by the local singing group The Gospel Song Birds. The group's members are David Arnold, Thurman Dozier, Eli Ellington, Erick Finley, Ladale Howell, Donnie Marsh, George Ramsey, Donnie Suttles and Rick Williams.

Tommy Pinson, the community center's manager, said it's "fitting" that The Gospel Song Birds are hosting this year's event. The group was established at the community center by the late Elbert Easley, a former employee of the community center, in 2005.

Pinson said the community center hosted a benefit for the Concerned Citizens of Dalton, a nonprofit that seeks to make a difference by "promoting human welfare through enriching lives and communities," and Easley was in charge of the entertainment. After hearing the group perform, Easley suggested the members sing together permanently.

Others expected to perform on Saturday are The A&M Quintet, The Big C Group, The Golden Trumpets and Margaret Howell. Arnold said attendees will enjoy the live music.

"We have lots of food vendors, praise dancers and a variety of gospel performers," he said. "It's always a great atmosphere and family-friendly event."

Anyone interested in being a vendor can call (706) 278-8205.

A portion of the funds from the event will go to a community member in need, Arnold said. Last year the group bought turkeys during Thanksgiving for those in need.

"This event is an opportunity for everyone in the community to come together," Pinson said. "This year we've added jazz music and open mic for anyone who wants to share their talents."

Kirklan said he's excited to see that Praise in the Park has evolved since that first year.

"We had about 75 people in the beginning, it has expanded in a short time to hundreds," he said.

Kirklan, who now lives in Marietta, said he's glad to see the event continue.

"It's good when you start something that continues even though I'm not there," he said. "Kudos to the organizers, I'm proud of them."

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