Sixth Annual Gospel Music Fanfest coming off solid growth in 2021

Richard Treptow planted seeds of a little dream in Columbus in 2016 and began watering and actively waiting.

Now those seeds are sprouting into an expanding Sixth Annual Gospel Music Fanfest at 6 p.m. June 9-11 at East Columbus Christian Church, 3170 Indiana Ave.

“It’s been growing a bit every year,” said Treptow, the founder of the event and a southern gospel performer himself with the Fishers-based Victorious Trio. “That growth last year was surprising. We didn’t quite expect that many.”

It attracted 150 people the first might, another 150 the second, and 180 on the closing night to see a nationally touring act. That signaled much stronger numbers than last year, coming back from a pandemic cancellation in 2020.

Besides Columbus, attendees came from the surrounding area of Franklin, Greenwood, Nashville, Seymour and other communities. He wants to see the event grow again this year — but not so much that people can’t be comfortable amid the building’s approximate 300-person seating capacity during the nightly, three-hour concerts.

“You don’t want them jam packed,” Treptow said.

The Indiana Gospel Music Association presents the event to highlight the music, the message and the artists.

Ron Bridgewater, East Columbus Christian Church’s senior minister and also one who is performing each night, can see the event growing.

“Absolutely,” Bridgewater said. “It’s becoming a more regular thing and also becoming more well known. People know now that they can plan on it happening the second weekend in June.

“Last year, I think it helped that people also were just really ready to get out of the house and do something.”

He plans to sing a mix of original material such as a popular song he wrote after his father’s death, “Jesus and My Dad.”

“If people know my music at all, that’s one song that they usually know me for,” he said.

Local Christian radio on-air personality Jim Hutson, also a gospel music singer, is emceeing and performing June 9 at Fanfest. Hutson has built a substantial following in south-central Indiana as an artist and as a DJ on Columbus’ WYGS southern gospel station at 91.1 FM.

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.

He mentioned that attendees have told him that they hear about the event via social media, radio, newspapers and more. He sees the gathering as a mix of both entertainment and ministry.

“The groups get to perform some of their best songs,” Treptow said, adding that groups get added bookings from the event. “And hopefully, the message in those songs somehow reach the audience.”

The message does indeed reach the heart. Treptow has seen people approach artists at the product tables afterward to buy merchandise and offer encouragement.

“People will say something like, ‘Oh, when you sang that particular song, it really just meant so much to me.’”