Love was in the air Thursday night at a Christian concert that drew thousands to James Brown Arena.
With fans gathered on Valentine’s Day at the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular to spread their love of Christ, Clayton Phillips popped the question to his girlfriend, Mary Jane Riley, outside the arena two hours before the concert.
The Aiken couple said they have rededicated their lives to God in recent years, and Phillips couldn’t think of a better place to propose than surrounded by other Christians.
“It’s a multilove event,” said Riley, whose fiance asked her son’s permission before the proposal. “God loves us and brought us together as Christians.”
A long line of fans wrapped around the arena waiting to see the lineup of Christian acts. Fifteen minutes after the concert started, people continued to file inside.
“We’re here for the bands, but we’re also here to see people get saved and turn their lives over to Christ,” said Brandy Wilson, who was with a large group from Gibson First Baptist Church. The group drove about an hour from Gibson, Ga., and had been waiting for 1½ hours before the doors opened.
Also near the front of the line was 15-year-old Olivia Nichols, who had attended the event for four straight years.
“I like all of the different bands that come each year,” she said, and headliner TobyMac was her favorite artist from the lineup.
Vendors sold glow sticks, blinking cross necklaces and T-shirts that read, “Label Me a Jesus Freak,” “Made to Love” and “Keep Calm and Jam.”
Among the performers were RED, Matthew West, Sidewalk Prophets and the Oswald Brothers Band.
The band Royal Tailor took the stage first after members of the crowd bowed their heads in prayer.
“Your heart will always be filled if Jesus is in your life,” lead singer Tauren Wells told the crowd between songs.
The tour stops at 44 venues across 24 states, mainly in the South and Midwest. More than 500,000 people attended Winter Jam shows last year. The tour is in its 18th year and has come to Augusta for the past nine.
Hannah Allen, 14, and friends from Sweetwater Baptist Church in Thomson were most looking forward to watching TobyMac. Hannah thought the concert was a great way to spend Valentine’s Day.
“For the older kids, it’s something they can do that’s safe and Christian-like,” she said.