With support from seven regional stations and networks, 2,400 Southern Gospel fans gathered at the Mansion Theater in Branson, Mo. March 18-20 for IMC Concerts’ ninth annual Branson Praisefest. While adhering to locally-mandated Covid safety precautions, fans heard from Dove Award Winning and GRAMMY® nominated artists such as Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Legacy Five, Greater Vision, Tribute Quartet, Jeff and Sheri Easter, the Booth Brothers, Phil Cross and Poet Voices, and Comedian Tim Lovelace. Dr. Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellvue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., also brought a message of hope and encouragement to the audience.
“KWFC has talked up Praisefest for as long as it has been in Branson, and we have been a part of the IMC Concerts media strategy for the past four years,” said station manager David Taylor (pictured at left). “IMC has created a world class event. Branson offers much to do before or after the three-day, four-session weekend event, but it is the lineup of top Southern Gospel artists that has people packing the house,” he continued. In addition to KWFC, a member of the Radio Training Network, IMC partnered with other media outlets including Oasis Radio Network, Bott Radio Network’s “The Branson Show,” and locally-owned stations in Missouri and Arkansas.
IMC President Landon Beene commented on the artist lineup: “We are thrilled to have the best artists in gospel music. We have a wide range of artists from the traditional sounds of the Blackwood Brothers to a more progressive inspirational group like Cana’s Voice with everything in between. If you were to pick the top five artists in Southern Gospel Music, you will most likely see them all during a Praisefest Branson event.”
Although attendance was down this year due to the pandemic, the Branson Praisefest has experienced steady growth over the past nine years so much so that a second annual Branson event has been added to IMC’s fall schedule. “In 2020, we launched Branson Praisefest Fall Retreat which is an annual event held every October,” said IMC co-owner Nathan Goble. “That event is held Monday – Wednesday which offers more opportunity for churches to bring their senior groups,” he said. Noting that KWFC sees a spike in app downloads during and after each Praisefest event, Taylor believes the Praisefest Fall Retreat has the potential to become even more popular than the spring event.
Big plans are also underway for next spring. “2022 will be a celebration of 10 years!” Beene said. “With that milestone, we have decided to expand the Praisefest Branson by adding an additional three-day event called the ‘Praisefest Branson Prelude’ which will run Monday through Wednesday leading up to the ‘Praisefest Branson Encore’ that will run Thursday through Saturday. We are expanding our talent lineup to include an even broader range of artists, speakers, and comedians,” he said. The tenth anniversary celebration will also include optional bonus concerts featuring a 300-voice choir performing with artists and a bonus concert with legendary comedian Mark Lowry.
In partnership with media outlets, IMC Concerts also hosts annual Southern Gospel Praisefest events in Lake Delton, Wis., Phoenix, Ariz., and Lancaster, Pa.