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HANFORD — The inaugural Youth Explosion Concert is scheduled Friday in Hanford in conjunction with the annual Interstate Association of the Church of God Camp Meeting.

The Interstate Association, which is comprised of several church groups from the western United States, will debut the new concert event as a way to welcome youngsters back to the fold.

“It’s our way of re-energizing and engaging the youth of Hanford and the surrounding areas,” said Pastor Fred Phillips, the Men’s Fellowship President of the Interstate Association. “I think it’s a way to boost morale and get the youth back [to being] involved with the camp meeting."

The camp meetings, which are a way for members of churches separated by miles of highways and state lanes, to meet face to face, sees from 150-300 attendees per year in Hanford. But Phillips said that youth attendance has been in decline in recent years and the concert is a way to turn that trend around, church leaders hope.

The concert, scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday, will feature performances from gospel singer Tiffany Binion Mangum, rapper IAMsentMee, singer Summer Jones, Destined for Greatness and more.  

Binion Mangum, a Fresno native, won The Steeple award for New Artist of the Year this year and released an album titled, “Manifest” last year.

Phillips said that one possible factor in the decline in youth attendance at the annual meeting is a lack of leadership and focus in their lives, as well as a lack of feeling included.

“Kids and millennials are very smart. They can recognize when they’re not really being included. If they’re not a part of the planning process, then when they come, they don’t have the things to do that they would like,” he said.

He also said that without a specific plan to keep youth engaged, they’ll likely stay home and engage in social media, video games or a host of other attractions.

“We can’t just assume that youth will come because their parents come, so we have to be proactive in our thought process to keep them engaged,” he said.

This weekend will mark the 86th year of the Camp Meeting, which is held at the Southside Church of God, 942 S. Harris St., Hanford.

Between 150-300 people from California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Washington come to the spot each year and Phillips estimates that 98 percent of attendees are from outside of Hanford.

The event started in the ‘30s as a way for Africa American church goers to create a community of their own.

“During that time, the blacks and whites did not fellowship together as well as we do today,” he said.

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