“Will you sign my Bible?” Taylor Cooke-Dew, 13, shyly asked illusionist Brock Gill.
Taylor’s goal was to get her linen-covered Bible filled with autographs by the end of the night after she saw her favorite bands perform in the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, the largest Christian music tour in the country.
“It’s just you, Jesus and thousands of your closest brothers and sisters of the Lord watching a great show,” said Taylor, who traveled with her sister from Brunswick, Ga., for the performances.
Thousands of people filled James Brown Arena on Thursday evening for Winter Jam’s Augusta concert, which featured 10 musical acts along with Gill and speaker Nick Hall.
Hours before the 7 p.m. start time, a line of fans waiting to buy tickets at the door snaked up Seventh Street and onto Telfair Street.
Fourteen friends from North Augusta High School waited outside the arena with four boxes of pepperoni pizza and sodas, making sure they wouldn’t be like the thousands of people who were turned away from the Atlanta Winter Jam show last month when Philips Arena was filled to capacity.
“We had to make it,” Travis Redd, 15, said. “It’s nice to go to something that can be religious and also be with your friends.”
At 4:30 p.m., a couple of hundred mega-fans gained access to the preshow party, which featured a Q&A with three of the featured bands.
Dara Maclean, Group 1 Crew and Peter Furler stood on stage and answered questions from the audience as Gill moderated. Questions came from the young and old, who asked about the inspiration behind certain songs and what it is like to perform on tour.
Winter Jam is in its 17th year and puts on 58 shows on the East Coast and in the western U.S. Tour pastor Bobby Joiner said 144 people pack into 12 tour buses and four tractor-trailers to put on the tour.
The traveling bands have daily devotionals on the road and try to bring positivity to each of their performances, he said.
In the audience Thursday, Missy Desouza, of Charlotte, N.C., sat with six friends to soak in the music and the message. She said one of her friends had three deaths in her family within four years and felt the music could help her.
“This music touches you,” Desouza said. “It’s really amazing.”