What began 20 years ago as an effort to bring at-risk children and families together has grown into a multigenerational gospel music festival that will celebrate its fruits on Easter Sunday.
Project LOVE's 20th annual Gospel Fest will run 3-8 p.m. next Sunday at Riverfront Park in North Charleston.
It is free and open to the public.
After two decades, Gospel Fest is the longest-running outdoor gospel music festival of its kind in the Southeast, organizers said.
This year's festival will feature a mix of local and regional artists, including Jarrell Smalls, The Sam Dennis Singers, Bishop Brian D. Moore and the Life Center Cathedral, Extreme Praise and Nyki Smalls.
The annual music celebration started 20 years ago as a way to create shared experiences between parents and children.
"We think of it as an annual family reunion," says Project LOVE Executive Director Creola Washington, who founded Gospel Fest in 1994.
Project LOVE, which stands for Lifting Our Voices for Excellence, works to empower parents and children with tools to restore family unity.
It showcases a multicultural parent choir comprising students and parents who perform throughout the Lowcountry and surrounding areas.
The nonprofit was formed after celebrating the first Gospel Fest in an effort to provide more than a single event.
"We could see that many of the families in attendance had other needs outside of what we were able to handle," Washington says.
Organizers partnered with local schools, churches, colleges, civic groups and others. They then began to provide services such as parenting classes, life skills training and family counseling.
"The services we provided to the those in at-risk and low-income communities blossomed into this amazing organization I have the privilege of serving," Washington adds.
And at age 20, it also has become multigenerational. Many of the first children and members of Project LOVE's parent-child choir now are parents themselves.
"They broke out of the impoverished neighborhoods and are now working and providing a quality life for their family," Washington says.
The Project LOVE Parent Child choir recorded a project in conjunction with the National Endowment of the Arts and was featured in its Millennium Project in 2000.
The public is invited to Gospel Fest where children ages 5 to 17 years old will be able to display their talents during the Amazing Kids with Talent Showcase.
Attendees also can enjoy Lowcountry foods, family fun and a new play area called Kids World that will feature inflatable jump castles, games and its own stage. A shuttle and bus service from parking lots at the park will be available.
For more, go to www.gospelfestcharleston.com or call (877) 592-8053.