Get Ready for Valley Gospel Fest

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ASHLEYCleveland.jpgTop performers in modern gospel music will be on stage for the first-ever Valley Gospel Fest, slated for May 10 at the Louis and Sandra Berkman Amphitheater at the Historic Fort Steuben in Southwestern Ohio.

Organizers outlined festival details during a press conference Thursday at the Starkdale Presbyterian Church.

The performers, who will include three-time Grammy-Award winner Ashley Cleveland, Jonathan White, Curtis Lewis and the Aliquippa Church in the Round Gospel Choir, the Word of Life Singers, Seasons and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Choir, will be on hand for the free festival scheduled to run from noon to 7 p.m.

The concert, co-sponsored by the Starkdale Presbyterian Church and the Community Foundation of Jefferson County, will be a "huge event" for Steubenville and Jefferson County, according to Jody Glaub, board member of the Community Foundation of Jefferson County and a Starkdale Presbyterian Church elder.

"This is going to be a community-wide, ecumenical celebration," said Glaub, adding that local churches will be invited to participate. "I think this is a wonderful time to be having this. Everyone has been so positive about the event. It's going to be a wonderful Saturday afternoon."

Glaub said funding for the concert will be through the Foundation's Glory to Christ fund, and community churches are invited to participate by hosting booths to give away merchandise or sell baked goods, crafts or cookbooks. Those attending are asked to take a canned good or monetary donation for Urban Mission Ministries, added Glaub.

Keith Murdock, Foundation board member, will serve as the master of ceremonies for the concert.

"Bob Neal also is going to provide fireworks at the end of the festival," said Glaub.

The city has committed to closing off a portion of Third Street near the amphitheater, while local pastors are asked to volunteer as greeters at the gates, said Glaub.

Terri Antill, community foundation director, said her organization is "pleased to be able to sponsor the event," while Dan Wood, an organizer, said the event will be an uplifting experience for an Ohio Valley hit with hard economic times.

"We want this to be more than a one-time event," said Wood of the concert. "We think this will give our area a boost."

Literature provided during the press conference describes Cleveland as blending "rock, blues, gospel and folk with her distinctive, open-tuned guitar sound that has won her three Grammy Awards, two Dove Awards and a legion of devoted fans."

One of Nashville's most in-demand session singers, Cleveland has performed on more than 300 albums, including those of John Hiatt, Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill, Jars of Clay, Don Henley, Amy Grant, Etta James and Michael McDonald.

There are 20 booth spaces available for local churches, and spaces will be assigned as applications are accepted until April 30. In case of rain the event will be held at the First Westminster Presbyterian Church.