Songs from the heart: Gospel fanfest returns Thursday to Columbus

Three weeks ago, calls were already coming in asking Rich Treptow about tickets.

The Fishers resident figures that has to be a solid sign for the return of the Gospel Music Fanfest, which he coordinates each year in Columbus.

COVID-19 canceled the three-day event in 2020, which would have been the fifth annual.

"I believe that people are very ready to get back to (southern) gospel music concerts," Treptow said.

The Indiana Gospel Music Association’s annual gathering, a mix of evangelization, edification and entertainment, will be held June 10-12 at East Columbus Christian Church, 3170 Indiana Ave.

In 2019, it drew about 175 people over three days, attracting people from Bartholomew County and surrounding areas such as Franklin, Seymour and Bloomington. The concerts include the nationally touring group Soul’d Out on June 12. 

But performances also include local acts such as country gospel artist Ron Bridgewater, who has earned accolades from such gospel veterans as the nationally touring Ernie Haase.

"Ron is a class act, minister, friend, and above all, a family man," Haase has said. "Ron has a great way of ministering with his music to all generations. He has wonderfully crafted songs and humor that brings people together."

Plus, local Christian radio on-air personality Jim Hutson, also a gospel music singer, is one of two emcees at Fanfest. Hutson has built a substantial following in south-central Indiana as an artist and as a DJ.

Hutson mentioned before a previous Fanfest that the Midwest ideally needs to see more growth in gospel music audiences in the future if it expects to stir the interest as high as in southern states such as Florida. Treptow, a member himself of a Fishers-based gospel trio, believes that can happen with the right awareness and promotion.

"Most of the groups I know of are seeing a gradual, slow return (to shows)," Treptow said, adding that his Victory Trio has three dates slated for July.

He’s appreciative of the interest in the genre in the state.

"It’s not quite like in places such as Tennessee," Treptow said. "But if you’re a southern gospel music lover here (Indiana), then you definitely show up (for concerts)."

In the past, attendees have been complimentary of Fanfest’s all-one-ticket price of $15 for three days. Treptow likes seeing the evolution of southern gospel from "four men and a pianist" to duets and more with focuses ranging from a country sound to bluegrass and other stylings.

"We have incredible variety," Treptow said, mentioning that a fast-paced presentation means most groups are singing only two or three songs in a night before making another appearance at the gathering. "And all of them have their own unique style and repertoire. So, if you don’t especially like one group, another one is coming right up."

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”About Fanfest” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Fifth Annual Gospel Music Fanfest.

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. June 12.

Where: East Columbus Christian Church, 3170 Indiana Ave. in Columbus.

Tickets: $10 per day or $15 for all three days.

Information: 317-847-1018 or