It all added up to a terrific weekend for the annual Frenchman River Gospel Jam.
FRGJ, now celebrating its 23rd year, featured three days of memorable performances and a relaxed, family atmosphere.
“We’re absolutely thrilled about the whole weekend, from start to finish,” beamed FRGJ committee chairman J.J. Hunter.” We felt that the talent, the message and the showmanship of everyone involved was more than we could have asked for.”
The event wrapped up with a roof raising show by The Oak Ridge Boys on Sunday afternoon at the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre. The legendary group, who has one of the most distinctive and recognizable sounds in the music industry, displayed their extra-ordinary four-part harmonies and upbeat songs in front of a huge and appreciative audience Sunday afternoon.
Both the floor level and stands were filled for the show and organizers estimated the crowd numbering somewhere between 1,300 and 1,400. The group performed for just over 90 minutes, culminating with an encore rendition of their smash hit “Elvira” after a standing ovation.
During their four-decade career, the Oak Ridge Boys have produced dozens of Country hits and a Number One Pop smash, and earned Grammy, Dove, CMA, and ACM awards along the way.
Sunday afternoon’s show also featured Texas-based performer Carey Dyer, who also served as emcee for the entire three-day celebration, as well as comedy group 321 Improv.
FRGJ opened on Friday night with feature performances by Catherine Lewans and headliners Link Union.
The incredible line-up of performers continued all day Saturday with free shows at the curling rink facility, featuring Catherine and Phil Lewans, Dawson & Shanay, The Sundrops, Heaven Scent, Conrad Sandberg & his Prairie Pals, Carey Dyer, Phil & the Lewans Girls and Link Union.
This was the first year that organizers had stages set up on both the curling and skating rink sides of the building, and the arrangement seemed to work out perfectly. Crowds numbered about 500 people on Saturday at the curling rink – with fans filtering in and out of the facility throughout the day – and organizers scrambled to find enough chairs to accommodate the swelling room.
The great music continued Saturday night with a concert show at the skating rink, highlighted by performances by the Hunter Bros., 321 Improv and Canadian country music star Jason Blaine. An estimated crowd of about 550 people attended the show.
Earlier in the day the Lutheran Church put on a pancake breakfast that drew several hundred people.
Sunday morning opened with a worship service at the curling rink with the Hunter Brothers, as well as presentations by Camille and Rob Parkman.
“All of the groups were extremely professional, starting with the Oak Ridge Boys and all the way down to every single group,” said Hunter.
Organizers were delighted by the record crowds and great turnout for all of the events.
“It certainly makes it all worthwhile,” said Hunter. “Everything turned out as well as we could have hoped.”
Hunter said the committee will now assess input from spectators, including completed surveys.
“We’re always looking to improve the event so that it continues to be something that people want to come to,” commented Hunter.
A guest book, which could be viewed in the lobby of the CPWC, showed a range of visitors from Canada and the United States.