The annual Songfest is hitting Jackson, Tenn., today, drawing thousands of traditional southern gospel listeners.
One of the few southern gospel festivals, the three-day event is sponsored yearly by Frank Arnold Ministries and held at the Carl Perkins Civic Center. The goal of the celebration is to uplift Christians in the area through music.
The music speaks for itself, argues event sponsor Frank Arnold.
"There is no preaching at Songfest," he explained to the Jackson Sun. "We just let the songs carry the message, and people listen to it. And that's what keeps us going. That's what lets us do what we do every day."
Featured at the event will be more than 20 gospel artists from around the nation. Comedian Aaron Wilburn will also entertain the crowds in between acts.
The festival organizers boast about the diverse crowds that attend the event. They also hope that the concerts can break misconceptions that southern gospel is a genre for the older generation.
"The majority of the artists are age 40 or younger, singing positive music," said Arnold to the Jackson Sun. "It's a mixture of people, not a bunch of old people on stage singing like some people think it is."
Coordinators are also expecting to bring in new listeners each year that may have never been exposed to southern gospel. They feel that it can hook them once they have gotten a taste.
"It's not common for an event like this to come to our area," explained Connie Heflin from Henderson, Tenn., according to the Jackson Sun. "So we always make sure to take someone different with us every year and introduce them to this music."
Also featured at the event will be a talent contest on Saturday morning where unsigned artists can compete against one another in two categories: solo or group. First place will receive studio time to record themselves and the chance to perform as part of the final night of Songfest.
This will be the 19th year the shows will be held in Jackson. Everything will be wrapped up Saturday night.