WESTMINSTER — Spreading the word with a catchy beat, three top bluegrass gospel bands will perform at the 13th Annual Country Gospel Music Show at Westminster High School on Sunday.
Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, The Florida Boys and The Nelons each will take the stage at 2 and 7:30 p.m. to entertain area gospel lovers and benefit two county churches.
"Country gospel's got a beat to it, that's where it gets the name," said Tom Diffendahl, one of the show's organizers. "They're real talented people and the music's great, not just the singing."
For 13 years, the congregations of Bethesda United Methodist in Sykesvilleand Zion United Methodist in Westminster have introduced the upbeat country gospel they love to the citizens of Carroll County.
"We have members of both congregations that used to go in their campers to these gospel shows in the mountains," said Diffendahl, a member of Bethesda. "They came back one time and said, 'Why don't we give it a try?' "
Scott Carr, chairman of the bi-congregational committee, said three members put up $3,000 apiece to guarantee that the concert would be a success.
"Since then, it's just been growing all the time," said Carr, a member of Zion since 1944.
Since its inception, the annual music show has become the main fund-raiser for the two churches, both served by the Rev. Carlee Hallman.
The first show cleared $2,000 for the two congregations, whose total membership is about 90 people, he said. Since then, each year has added somewhere between$2,000 and $5,500 to the collective coffers.
"This keeps the two churches going," said Carr. "These two small churches have got a thing going that's good for the community."
Crowds from Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland often fill the Westminster High auditorium for both shows.
"It's something for the people, for thechurches, for the spirit," said Diffendahl. "The people really enjoythemselves and say, 'This is great, keep it up.' "
Carr said the afternoon show averages 1,000 to 1,100 people, while the evening performance attracts 500 to 800.
"Some people come for both shows and stay overnight," he said. "One year, we had filled all but a couple (of) seats on the main floor and about 100 up in the balcony."
Although many tickets are sold locally at Scharon's Black Eagle or Bullock's Country Meats in Westminster, or Menchy Music in Hanover, Pa., the group also maintains a mailing list for out-of-state attendees.
"We've sold roughly 75 tickets through the mails (this year)," said Diffendahl.
While the churches try to upgrade the shows each year with more professional groups, committee members said they also are concerned about keeping ticket prices low.
"Some of these (other) shows charge $10 and $12 a ticket," said Carr. "We try to keep the prices down so a man and wife can bring a couple of children and it not be ridiculously expensive."
Advance ticket prices are $7 for seats on the main floor and $4 for the balcony. Tickets at the door cost $1more.
"We kept it at ($6 and $3) for 10 years," said Diffendahl. "But then we had to go up $1 a few years ago."
As arrangements forthis year's concert come to a close, preparations already have begunfor the 14th annual show, Carr said.
Countians will hear the King's Men, the Chronicles (formerly the King's Boys) and the Fox Brothers at the 1992 Country Gospel Music Show.
"You have to have them booked a year ahead of time, or you don't get the groups you want," said Carr.
Information: 795-1728 or 833-6295.