Shoutfest celebrates God, community in Aiken

·3 min read

Oct. 17—Beverly D. Clyburn Generations Park had a gospel soundtrack and much more traffic than usual Saturday afternoon, as the host site of Shoutfest, an annual offering of local radio station WAAW (94.7 FM).

The event, billed as the Aiken-Augusta area's largest free, outdoor, family-focused gospel festival, is largely orchestrated by Donna Moore Wesby, the radio station's general manager and program director.

"People don't know who God is. They've been confused by all this stuff in the world," Wesby said, addressing the crowd. "This is ministry, which is why everything that you see here today is done in decency and in order, because God is a god of order, and if anybody with WAAW is out of order, trust me, God is going to deal with it, because this is his rock, and upon his rock is a solid foundation, so we give all glory to God."

She expressed particular thanks for (and to) attorney Everett Chandler, whose law firm is a major sponsor of the gospel gathering. Chandler, referring to the radio station's employees, said, "They work hard, they pray hard and they like to have fun sometimes, too."

This year's guest list, in terms of performers, included such names as Bishop Billy Smith, the Abraham Brothers, the Beard Sisters, Damon Little, Keyla Richardson, Monica Lisa Stevenson, Jason Nelson and Kelontae Gavin.

Vendors offered a variety of products and services, ranging from pork rinds and shaved ice to HIV testing and registration for federal benefits. Several speakers encouraged their listeners to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if they haven't already taken that step.

The station's owners, Rock Hill residents Frank and Toranta Neeley, also spoke to the gathering. "Just continue, in this season, to press your way through," Toranta said. "God's got you. Just press your way through."

Frank addressed the audience also. "You know, I remember about 20 years ago, God told me to go buy my first radio station. I should've bought a concrete plant, but a concrete plant don't talk about Jesus. An asphalt plant won't talk about Jesus."

He added, "When you get a radio station, you can tell the community, 'I love you.' You can tell the community, 'You need to go get your shot.' Why do I need to go get my shot? Because you're going to be ... safer when you get your shot."

Retired educator Beverly Clyburn, known to many as the wife of Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, was among other speakers on stage Saturday afternoon, appearing in the park that was renamed in April in her honor.

"I come out here often, and usually it's two or three cars," Beverly said, speaking to the gathering, "but a lot of fresh air and a nice look at what the community of Aiken looks like."

Wesby also triggered some applause by mentioning that Saturday was the birthday of her sister, Tfifany Moore Palmer, WAAW's traffic manager. "She is the one who helps me make sure that every advertiser's commercial is played the way it's supposed to be played," said Wesby, who led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" while Parker brought out a camera to record the moment.

She estimated the crowd as numbering in the thousands. The event, she said, began in 2008 and was originally held in Perry Park up until this year.

"Everybody said they loved it, because of the landscaping," Wesby said, referring to the new venue, which is off U.S. 1, near the Western Carolina State Fairgrounds. "Many of the artists and vendors were saying how things were done so professionally ... I really do my best to do things out of a spirit of excellence, and that comes by way of my spiritual beliefs."

Wesby's guest list, in terms of performers, also included such names as Earnest Pugh, Paul Porter, Rudy Currence, Melvin Crispell III, Apostle James Pinckney Jr., Katrae Allen Washington, Rufus Johnson, Pastor Augustus Washington Jr. and the MV Divine.

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