The Guardians will help open this year’s Southern Gospel Music Expo with a performance on Thursday, April 3. The event will run April 3 - April 6 at Trinity Friends Church. (Photo submitted)
The Guardians will help open this year’s Southern Gospel Music Expo with a performance on Thursday, April 3. The event will run April 3 - April 6 at Trinity Friends Church. (Photo submitted)

VAN WERT — In 13 years, the Southern Gospel Music Expo has become one of the largest events of the spring, bringing in music lovers from several states. Over 3,000 see all or part of the four-day event which is hosted by the local music group, Trinity.

“The expo is the big event we work toward all year,” said the group’s Kim Mason. “Expo is in April, but we’ll probably start at the end of May or in June sending out invitations for the next year. That’s the thing about Expo — you’re already working on next year and this year hasn’t come and gone yet.”

The list of talent is large and so is the task of finishing all the details. Mason, Cheryl Burk, and Gary Adams have a lot of help getting everything in place and taking care of many unnoticed details. But all the planning is worth it.

Adams noted, “We are blessed before it even starts because we get to see people who are good friends.”

“We always laugh that we would do it even if not a single person came to watch,” added Mason. She compared the experience to go to church camp, where old friends get to see each other again. The other groups are often people who have hosted Trinity in similar events elsewhere. Technology allows them to keep in closer contact these days, but Mason pointed out that there is nothing like being together again.

That feeling is apparent to those attending the event too. Many come back year after year to enjoy the music and the love that is obvious in the room.

Trinity Friends Church is home base for the event, although Trinity members end up taking the other singers on morning trips in the area. The performers put on an impromptu time of singing at Vancrest Care Center for the residents and on Sunday morning, 16 of the groups have been booked in local churches to perform. Adams said that this is the largest number of groups scheduled for Sunday morning in the 13-year history of the event.

“Most of the groups that come here are not full-timers, but we keep a full-time schedule and then work full time,” Mason shared. “It can be a very stressful life.”

The Expo begins with a special Thursday night performance on April 3 at 7 p.m. The Guardians will get things started for the weekend, and Trinity will also take the stage on the first evening. The Guardians are 25-year veterans of Southern Gospel music and call Chillicothe, Ohio home.

The place gets more crowded with singers on Friday as a series of groups — quartets, trios, soloists, and more — begin the Friday session at 5 p.m. Groups are scheduled to keep performing until 11:30 p.m. On Saturday, the music starts at 4 p.m. and runs until nearly 11 p.m. The Saturday session start time was moved up this year, taking into account those who need to get some rest before church services Sunday morning.

The finale concert Sunday night at 6 p.m. features The Pfeifers from Washington Court House this year, with Trinity. Mason talked about the feature group.

“They kind of add a different spin on things because the vocalist is a phenomenal trumpet player and both girls play saxophone so they are able to add an instrumental touch to it too. If Gabriel is busy when the Lord comes back, John Pfeifer is going to play trumpet!” she laughed.

The entire long weekend of music is absolutely free. There is no admission price for any of the sessions. Mason explained, “We don’t ever want a cost to prohibit someone from coming in.”

Adams and Mason each expressed their thanks to not only the volunteers who help the Expo run so smoothly, but also the many sponsors who financially help make it happen.