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912 talented teens perform at festival

March 06, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Bethel Assembly of God in Hagerstown was probably a bit louder than usual Saturday afternoon as 912 teenagers competed in the Potomac District Fine Arts Festival.

Church leaders estimated 1,300 people attended the festival, which had a variety of categories ranging from instrumental solos to sermons to rap groups to mime solos.

The Potomac District encompasses Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and parts of Pennsylvania. Competitors must attend an Assembly of God church regularly and be in 6th to 12th grade at school. The event's theme was "Your Turn."

About one-fourth of the competitors move on next to the national competition in Orlando, Fla., in August.

Among those moving on to the national level is Melody Wilson, 17, a junior at North Hagerstown High School. She played her clarinet in the instrumental wind solo category.

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"It was a way for me to use my music for God," Wilson said.

Hosting the event is a great way to support the district while at the same time bringing people to Hagerstown for the first time, said Bethel Senior Pastor Terry Broadwater.

It also helps the ministries at the church grow, he said. The event was also held at Bethel in 1997.

After the competitions ended, it standing-room-only inside the church while the audience waited for the results to be announced. While waiting, different groups in the crowd took turns shouting, "I love Jesus. Yes, I do. I love Jesus. How about you?"

When the awards were announced, Adia Peterson, 17, of Manassas, Va., made her way to the podium several times, winning honors for a short story and for her performance in the female vocal solo category.

Earlier in the day, she explained that she likes to compete in several categories during each of the four times she has competed at the district level.

"I like to explore the different talents God has blessed me with," she said. She has competed twice before at the national level, which she described as more difficult but also more enjoyable.

Talent scouts attend the national competition, offering contracts, while colleges hand out scholarships to some of the winners, said Karen Keigley of Fairfax, Va., coordinator of fine art and music for the Potomac District.

Bill DeSanto, chairman of the music department at Valley Forge Christian College in Valley Forge, Pa., also scouted out talent at the local competition, distributing $500 to $2,000 scholarships to students he hoped to draw to the educational institution.

Last year, Jennifer Attanasi of Vienna, Va., received second place in the national competition with a song she played on her harp. She won a partial scholarship to Evangel Church in Springfield, Mo.

This year she returned, but as a judge in the exhibition category.

"It's scarier," she said. It is harder to judge others than it was to be judged, she said.

On reflection, what does she think about the people who had to judge her performance?"I feel sorry for them," she said, laughing.

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