by Lisa Tome
When riots broke out in Baltimore, members of the First Baptist Church of Perryville headed to the city to feed anyone impacted by the melee.
On Saturday, Baltimore came to downtown Perryville. The church hosted a free Christian Hip Hop concert complete with food and entertainment. This was the first non-town-sponsored event held in the new Lower Ferry Park band shell.
Dr. John Gauger, pastor of First Baptist of Perryville, explained that the event was years in the making.
"We've been trying to do this for two years. A lot of people like Hip Hop," said the pastor. He said that with talking with members of the community, he felt that it was a viable event.
The church used to host annual block parties and ran a successful health fair with screenings for years. The minister said there was a desire to do something new.
"This is different. I really appreciate the town for their help," said Gauger.
The church brought in numerous pizzas, chips, and soda.
"We just want to give out free gifts and let them (attendees) hear about God. We don't just want to be known as the church on (Route) 40. I wanted to be back in town. We know people can drive down here," he said.
The congregation met with the Hip Hop artists prior to the show - for two meals. The minister said the church members aren't used to the Hip Hop culture. "We are mostly white, we have a little asian and a little hispanic. We are largely caucasian," said the pastor. The slate of performers came from the inner city.
In the wake of the riots in 2015, the church and others in the Southern Baptist denomination ministered to people and provided food during a terrible time in Baltimore. "Hey, we're all in this together," he said. That's when the relationship with some of the performers began.
Angie McGuigan helped organize the event for the church. "We wanted to step out of our comfort zone, cross barriers and show love," said McGuigan.
Perryville Police Chief Allen Miller stopped by to see how things went.
"It went off very well. Everyone had a good time. Everyone was well behaved and parked where they were supposed to. It was very nice," said Chief Miller.
Perryville town staffer Amy Yackanech said that the band shell use has exceeded the town's expectations. "I figured the town would use it first. But as soon as people heard about it, they started booking it," said Yackanech. "I think we didn't expect it to (be popular) so fast. Hopefully this goes well and brings more people in."
A Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Festival will be held at the site on June 17 from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. That event is being hosted by Chambers Concert Productions and alcohol will be sold.
Extra police officers will be on alert that day to supplement the Perryville force. The Cecil County Emergency Services command bus will also be on site. The promoter is also providing security.