"Those guys led the crowd as only they can with many familiar worship songs and some original music," said Kathleen Bobeldyk, who helps book the artists for the weekly series.
A crowd estimated at more than 1,200 took in WOW's opening evening, a number sure to grow as summertime momentum builds and national acts take the stage.
Attendance often swells to more than 3,000, filling the bleachers and spilling over to ground level seats and lawn areas along the waterfront.
DIFFERENCES FOR 2016
This year there is no opening worship ensemble leading songs before the guest artist appears. And the starting time has moved to 7 p.m.
"Our artists have requested more time to perform," noted Carolyn Manting, music director at the series-sponsoring First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.
WOW must conclude in time for Waterfront Stadium to transition for a later audience which comes to see the dusk performance of the city's legendary Musical Fountain.
Worship is still a focus, as noted in the WOW name. Each evening's featured artist often has worship-based songs in their repertoire.
"We are using local pastors with a heart for sharing the gospel to welcome everyone and to introduce the artist," added Manting. There's also a gospel insert in the printed program.
COMING TO WOW THIS YEAR
Blanca Callahan (her stage name is simply "Blanca") was part of the band Group 1 Crew before venturing out as a solo artist several years ago. She performs on July 31 during the busy Coast Guard Festival.
Jason Crabb (Aug. 14) is a talented singer-songwriter with fans in Southern gospel, country and inspirational music.
Jason Gray (Aug. 21) and Mark Schultz (Aug. 28) both return from WOW appearances last summer (full schedule below).
"We try to be diverse in the types of music so we can reach out to many different audiences or introduce them to new music genres," Bobeldyk added. She worked on this year's artist schedule with Pastor John Kenny of First Reformed.
An outdoor venue is always sensitive to and often affected by the weather. WOW can be moved to an alternate location or even cancelled depending on extreme conditions. Check the WOW Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/worshiponthewaterfront/?fref=ts or the website www.worshiponthewaterfront.org for the latest information.
(Long-time WOW goers know: you'll want to have your sunglasses handy as you look northwestward along the Grand River channel where the portable stage/platform is positioned).
FROM THE PAST TO THE FUTURE
W.O.W has roots going back to 1947, although it didn't start meeting at the waterfront until 1965. The "Worship on the Waterfront" name was christened in 1997 and the musical portion of the program was expanded.
Although a free-will offering is taken each week, the bulk of the expenses are met by series underwriters. Individual as well as corporate supporters are listed in each Sunday's printed program.
Plans for a complete reconstruction of Waterfront Stadium were approved by Grand Haven's city council last March. Included will be grassy and multi-use seating areas, a new bandshell and concession area. The current bleachers will be taken down, giving the area more of an amphitheatre-look (it will be somewhat similar to the terraced concert venue at Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids).
"The WoW team was consulted on the renovation and we are really excited about it," said Bobeldyk, who notes that construction work could begin as early as this fall.
Worship On the Waterfront (W.O.W.) a summer inspirational music series
Where: Waterfront Stadium, downtown Grand Haven
Time: 7 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 28
Admission: free-will offering
Contact: www.worshiponthewaterfront.org. 616-842-6600. Sponsored by First Reformed Church of Grand Haven
The WOW line-up:
July 3 – Building 429
July 10 - NewWorldSon
July 17 – I Am They
July 24 – David & The Giants
July 31 – Blanca Callahan
Aug. 7 – 7eventh Time Down
Aug. 14 – Jason Crabb
Aug. 21 – Jason Gray
Aug. 28 – Mark Schultz
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