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Florida Strawberry Festival
Plant City Observer Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 8 months ago

Gospel Night: In Jesus' name they play

Pastor Calvin “Pee Wee” Callins leads the Florida Strawberry Festival’s annual gospel concert.
by: Justin Kline Sports/Associate Editor

When Calvin “Pee Wee” Callins looks at the Gospel Night crowds from his Florida Strawberry Festival stage, one thing always stands out: unity.

For the last five years, Callins, the pastor at Greater New Hope Anointed Ministries in Plant City, has led the festival’s annual gospel concert with the goal of bringing people from all walks of life together to be positive and praise God. When the concert is in full swing, the energy in the room is boundless.

“At Gospel Night, no one sees race,” Callins said. “No one sees color. It’s amazing. It’s truly about loving one another. Everyone that’s under there is really just lifting their hands up and loving God and loving the atmosphere that the Florida Strawberry Festival brings. It brings a family and it brings a united-type feeling in this whole community.”

Callins, who took over for Rev. Arthur T. Jones five years ago, likes to bring something different to the table every year. He says he’d like to bring some “old-school flavor” to the 2018 show, so he’s called upon Tampa group the Exciting Gospel Warriors and his own church’s praise dance team, and plans to bring local guest musicians on stage to perform. The pastor is also excited for the return of Plant City Church of God’s choir to the show.

“They are awesome,” Callins said. “They performed with me the first year. They have been busy, but this year, I called them back and they are ready. If you want to see an exciting choir, that’s gonna be something to see.”

Of course, Callins himself will lead the performance. The pastor is an experienced performer who transitions seamlessly from high-energy songs to sermons that move the crowd. He began a career in music in 1992, right out of Plant City High School, and has become adept at merging the sounds of gospel with those of hip hop. He’s performed with gospel titans like Kirk Franklin and Shirley Caesar, and even has a song with legendary rapper Tupac Shakur called “I Choose Love.” Though Callins’ music career has taken him around the world, he said nothing beats being able to perform in his hometown on its biggest stage.

“Traveling all around the world, God has blessed me to do that. But being able to perform in front of family, friends, high school classmates is awesome,” Callins said. “I’m privileged and I thank God for the opportunity to perform here in Plant City.”

As long as he’s physically able — even if they have to build him a ramp to the stage, he jokes — Callins wants to spread Christ’s word and bring audiences together in worship at the festival. He has high hopes for this year’s Gospel Night concert, scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. March 3 in the Publix Showcase Tent.

“This will be a life-changing experience where you see brothers and sisters uplifting Christ in an awesome way,” he said.

Justin Kline is the Sports/Associate Editor at the Plant City Observer. He has been covering all things sports-related in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World since 2013.

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