By Joel Hall
For the first time ever this weekend, Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro will host Praise 102.5 FM's "Praise in the Park" concert.
The free performance will feature popular gospel artists from around the country, among them Smokie Norful, James Fortune, and Sister Perri (formerly known as Pebbles).
The concert will take place on Saturday, Aug. 1, from 2 p.m., to 8 p.m., at the International Park V.I.P. Complex. Admission is free to the public, but there is a small, parking fee: $3 per car, $6 per van, and $15 for buses.
Derek Harper, program director of Praise 102.5 FM, said the concert series has taken place in Stone Mountain for several years. He said, as the event attracts fans from around the country, having it in Clayton County should boost the visibility of International Park.
"It started at Stone Mountain Park," he said. "A few years ago, we decided to move it around. This year, we wanted to target a community that supports us greatly and that we felt didn't really get the great publicity that it could be entitled to. We feel like it is our job as 'Atlanta's inspiration station' to provide some inspiration, and we felt that there was no better place than Atlanta Beach."
The bill for Saturday's concert also includes gospel artists Jonathan Nelson, Sheri Jones Moffett, Stephen Hurd, Dorothy Norwood, Troy Sneed, and Vashawn Mitchell. According to Harper, Sister Perri, will perform her first concert on Saturday as a religious artist.
"A lot of people might not know this, but she [Reid] is the artist formally known as Pebbles, the woman who discovered [hip hop group] 'TLC,'" Harper said. "She was their manager and an artist in her own right.
"A while ago," he said, "she left the secular world of music and started a ministry. Saturday will mark the first time that she has performed since 1994. It's going to be a special weekend. People are coming from all over the country."
Troy Stubbs, the administrator of International Park, said the park is expecting 5,000 to 7,000 people for the concert. He believes the event will expose Clayton County's amenities, and provide people with something free to do nearby.
"For the economic times we are in, it provides people an opportunity to do something at a low cost," he said. "It's also a regular beach day, so people will be out here for the beach and the other amenities we have out here as well. People can come out and swim, enjoy the picnic area, and just have a fun day.
"Hopefully, it will bring more people out to want to use our stadium for concerts," he added. "It will show some people, who have never been here, what is available right here in the metro area."
Harper said he hopes the concert will provide greater visibility for the park, which he considers "a hidden jewel in the metro Atlanta area."
"Praise in the Park has traditionally been one of the largest outdoor gospel events in the country," he said. "We will be happy to bring more attention to the site."
Admission to "The Beach" area, which is seperate, is $10 for adults and $8 for children. For more information, call (770) 603-4000.