At this year's final event on Sun. Aug. 28, a crowd of more than 2,500 gathered to hear inspirational singer-songwriter Mark Schultz. And the audience also showed its appreciation to volunteers Irv Boersen, Bob Bennett, Sharon Yonker and Carolyn Manting.
All four are members First Reformed Church in Grand Haven, the church which began an outdoor "hymn sing" in 1947 and has continued the musical outreach to the present day's W.O.W. format.
Manting has decades of experience with the series, and for many years booked the artists as well as led the church worship band which opened each Sunday evening session. She also handled publicity and took turns serving as emcee.
She continues to work as First church's music director as well as office administrator.
Boersen most recently served as W.O.W. committee chairman and also as an emcee. Bennett has helped with both fundraising and facilities arrangements. Yonker has been part of the series for more than 30 years, and had charge of artist hospitality.
This year the ten-Sunday musical line-up included Christian artists as diverse as the pop-rock of Building 429 and 7eventh Time Down, the R&B-infused Blanca Callahan and the eclectic NewWorldSon.
There were also sing-along worship anthems such as "Ten Thousand Reasons" and "Good, Good Father."
"This is one of my favorite places," he told the crowd along the Grand River channel as several seagulls flew overheard.
NEW PLANS...NEW LOOK
Newer leadership is already moving into place. For the last two years Kathleen Bobeldyk has assisted in crafting W.O.W.'s musical line-up. She already books artists/events through her Community Concert Connections organization. There are several other board members/volunteers stepping up for 2017 when W.O.W. enters its 71st year. The series continues to be funded by corporate and individual sponsors, plus a free-will offering at each event.
Meanwhile, plans for a complete reconstruction of Waterfront Stadium were approved by Grand Haven's city council last March. The bleacher sections will all be removed, making way for a terraced, grassy seating area. A new stage/bandshell will be built, and an early site plan also included restrooms, concessions and other amenities.
As a regular user of the facility, W.O.W. officials were consulted on the proposed changes. Fundraising continues and site work could begin as soon as next year.
Manting looks back gratefully at the series' 2016 success, which featured a format change which gave the guest artist more stage time but included a gospel presentation by an area pastor.
"We received very good feedback, and God surely blessed us with another wonderful year....no rain outs!" she smiled.
Several other summertime Christian concert series ended over the Labor Day weekend, including those at Maranatha Bible Conference in Muskegon, Sandy Pines Lakeside Chapel in Hopkins and Praise in the Park at Garden Park in downtown Rockford.