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Victorians show their praise through song

By Camille Doty
Sept. 8, 2012 at 4:08 a.m.
Updated Sept. 9, 2012 at 4:09 a.m.

Victoria native Jeff Williams, hosted the first Crossroads Gospel Fest.

CROSSROADS Gospel Fest Winners

•  Soloist - Dorothy Cunningham

•  Group - New Revelation Praise Ministry

Laughter and music filled the Victoria Fine Arts Center backstage as contestants prepared to perform. They exercised their spiritual and physical muscles through reading Scripture and even doing push-ups.

Rhonda Davis rocked from side-to-side in her seat, bursting with anticipation.

"I can't wait to go out there and sing for the Lord," she said.

The tall, well-suited soprano is a member of the Mt. Calvary Praise & Worship Team who helped the crowd rise to its feet. On the other side of the curtain, high-tempo gospel music lifted the spirits of the crowd.

Saturday couldn't come fast enough for Wanda Gardner. The 45-year-old San Marcos native had to wait 21/2 hours longer to make her Victoria debut with her group, Harmony Gospel.

"We've been counting down to get here," she said.

The crowd of 300 dressed in their Sunday best one day early, as they donned diamonds and pearls. Ladies strutted in their high heels and the men sported fashion - forward ties and scarves. The art center became a praise center as the soulful sounds resonated through the building.

Jeff Williams had a vision to bring uplifting entertainment to his hometown and giving glory to God. The father of two prayed to make the perfect palette of music in the Crossroads Gospel 2012 concert with the ideal acts.

"People wanted to know how I decided. Well, I sent it up to God first," he said. The participants showcased their talents thorough ministry, getting studio time with award-winning gospel artist Chester D.T. Baldwin.

The three teams and three soloists had eight minutes to wow the audience with one song or medley. And in Apollo-style fashion, the audience determined the winners through its reaction. The eventful evening offered a blend of upbeat gospel, soulful tunes and contemporary Christian music.

Pastor Vernon Garza opened the event with prayer. Sounds of praise came from the crowd before he said "Amen." He viewed the competition more as a unifier instead of a divider.

"Music has always been a part of Victoria. It's the vein that brings us together," he said.

Baldwin, a Billboard chart-topper from Houston, wanted to see the Crossroads talent. As a 33-year music veteran, he understands the nature of the ever-changing show business.

"In some ways technology has helped, but it's also more difficult," said Baldwin. He shared his musical notes of wisdom to anyone who asked.

Contestant Aaron Boyd listened to the national recording artist with attention and focus. The 24-year-old Victoria resident wanted to bring other young people to God by being authentic.

"You have to be as transparent as possible. People connect with what is real," he said. Boyd serves as the worship leader for New Revelations Praise Team. The group of 20-something musicians sang original songs for the contest.

Boyd said success was more about the result than the outcome. "If someone got saved and delivered, then I was successful," he said.

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