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Gospelfest music touches peoples’ souls

Two-year-old Zymphony Duffie Waukegan found some space front stage Gospelfest Greenbelt Cultural Center North Chicago just too inviting when music

Two-year-old Zymphony Duffie of Waukegan found some space in front of the stage at Gospelfest at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago just too inviting when the music moved her. | FRANK ABDERHOLDEN~SUN-TIMES MEDIA

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Updated: September 23, 2013 6:14PM

Gospelfest at the Greenbelt Cultural Center on Sunday in North Chicago drew more than 300 people despite the heat, and then rain threatened just as the time drew near for gospel recording artist Mark Hubbard and The Voices to perform and the crowd was increasing.

This was the 13th annual Gospelfest, where people enjoyed the singing, the music, the food, and the setting at the Greenbelt Forest Preserve. “I come all the time,” said Charles Daniels, 74, of North Chicago. “It’s the music, it gets down to your soul,” he said.

Besides Hubbard and the The Voices scheduled at 5 p.m., the festival kicked off at 3 p.m. and included First Baptist Church of Lake Forest Choir, Voices of Corinthian Choir, soloist Synthia Burgesss-Hill, ALATS Dance Club from Sign of the Dove Church, soloist Kishi Johnson, the Kids 4 Christ from New Way of Life Church, Rhema Praise Dance Ministry, Inc., gospel comedian Marie Wilson, and the Pastor Kevin & the Loving Arms Outreach Ministries Choir.

Joyce Ayers, 69, of Chicago comes out from Chicago for the festival. “I come every year,” she said, “It took two hours to get here, but it is definitely worth it. I’m loving it,” she said.

Za’Tozia Duffie, 13, of Waukegan was there with her sisters Zor’Nelle, 8, and Zymphony, 2, and her aunt, Denisha McCauley, of Zion after he parents had to run back to their church. Zymphony entertained people with her dancing. At one point, her aunt had to retrieve her as she wandered to the other side of the stage.

“We come out every year,” said Za’Tozia, “It’s nice music, fun entertainment and the food is good.”

The event’s Gospelfest Committee presented Doing Good in the Neighborhood awards to community members who have blessed others with their volunterism and being involved in the community.

Gearldean Hughes, 80, was honored for the many things she does for youth and her church. “Basically, we are looking for unsung heros,” said committee member Azie Abrams. “These are people you never hear about, but they are always doing things for the community,” she said.

“Mrs. Hughes is always there for youth committee and is always willing to serve,” said Abrams.

The other two honorees were 18-year-olds Ebony Smith and Syerra Cunningham. Cunningham is entering Southern Illinois University and has volunteered for youth groups. She was also an All-Lake County basketball player for the past three years.

Smith sings in her church’s choir, volunteers for Outreach and has received A’s and B’s in school. She hopes to become an architect, but first she wants to try and be an Olympic track athlete. She also played volleyball and basketball.

Mary Ross-Cunningham, the county board member for District 9 that covers Waukegan and North Chicago and is on the Gospelfest committee, said they have drawn upwards of 1,500 people. “It’s a good thing to give something back to the community that is free of charge,” she said.

“Families come together, friends come together who haven’t seen each other for a long time. The kids really like it,” said Ross-Cunningham.

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