‘Praise in the Mountains’: Annual Christian concert returns this weekend to Western Gateway Park
Special to Prospector
“Praise in the Mountains” returns this Saturday for the 29th year, making it the longest running free Christian concert in Nevada County and beyond. The family friendly event takes place at Western Gateway Park, with social distancing in the outdoor space encouraged.
The all-day festival began when members of a faith-based band started looking around for opportunities to perform.
“It has a humble beginning,” said Concert Manager Dennis Hulbert. “Thirty years ago, I was playing in the band Machaira. We came out of Grass Valley and when we started, we were looking for a place to play. We played at the county fair and a few things but really couldn’t find much, so we decided to put on our own event so we could have a place to play. That’s how it started, and it has been an evolution.”
It continues as a means to reach out to people in different phases of their lives.
“We strive to reach out to people at risk, people from Teen Challenge, Faith and Hope, the Rescue Missions and other areas. It always ends up being a special event. I hear testimonies from people who have grown up going to it and it’s just a fun day of a very eclectic group to get together and have a great time,” Hulbert said.
He added, in the beginning he never intended to be doing it for 30 years, but it has evolved. As the only original member of Machaira (pronounced Ma-Kie-Ra, the name is a Greek word and is found in the New Testament, meaning sword), Hulbert said the festival is a fun outreach opportunity.
While faith based, it is also very entertaining and open to people of all walks of life. Hulbert said the day will include a variety of music.
“We have all the way from a traditional praise and worship music to a traveling black gospel group performing old time gospel to a rock and roll, 80s and 90s kind of sound, and then my band Machaira is a real variety of bluesy jazz.”
Machaira is now a 10-piece band that has had some fairly established musicians joining them, including members of Tower of Power, and The Doobie Brothers playing on some of their recent albums. The popular band is the host of the festival. Over the years the band has made an impression on those who have seen them perform including at least one incident of a baby being named after the band.
“I met a woman who had seen us at a show, and she said if she ever had a baby, she was going to name it after the band and now I see the girl, Machaira, on Facebook and she’s 21 years old!”
The music is all gospel oriented, but it comes in a wide assortment of styles. “Except for one band, it’s not your typical church praise music,” Hulbert said, “There’s an interpretive dance group of younger girls that will be doing stuff between acts and will perform on one of Machaira’s songs.”
The 501c3 relies on donations but does not charge for the concerts, he said. “The testimony of the band is that for 30 years we’ve made seven CDs. We’ve toured Russia. We’ve been in a Hollywood movie. We’ve done over 300 concerts and we’ve never charged a penny. The band is always evolving.” Adding two of the newest band members are retired band director Ken Carter and his wife, who play trumpet and trombone, respectively. Hulbert joked, “I got two for one!”
Saturday’s event takes place at Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley beginning at 1 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. In addition to the headlining Machaira and the aforementioned dance group, called In His Steps and the gospel group mentioned, The Chosen Wonders, other bands performing include Anointed, American River Community Church, and Godstown.
There will be a bounce house for the kids, food for purchase (but patrons are welcome to bring their own picnic) and free prizes given away throughout the event including a grand prize drawing for $1,000. Bring your own lawn chair to enjoy festival seating. Gates open at 12:30 p.m. for the planned 1 p.m. start. Social distancing is encouraged. COVID-19 protocols will be in place, but the entire event is outside so masks will not be required.
“It’s been a really neat festival over the years, based in Grass Valley and a lot of people come out,” said Hulbert. “It’s very family oriented. It’s free. We do it every year to just collectively bring a diverse group together and just have a great day.”
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at email@example.com
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Praise in the Mountains, a free Christian concert
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 4, event from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., gates open at 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Western Gateway Park, 18560 Penn Valley Dr, Penn Valley
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