Pastor Joseph L. Garner and the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church of Leesville brought plenty of food, fun and festivities to the Leesville area over the past weekend during the church's annual Family Day. The crowning event of the weekend was a performance by the Mississippi Mass Choir.


Pastor Joseph L. Garner and the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church of Leesville brought plenty of food, fun and festivities to the Leesville area over the past weekend during the church's annual Family Day. The crowning event of the weekend was a performance by the Mississippi Mass Choir.
A long line of people waited at the doors of the church for their 6:15 p.m. opening Saturday evening to hear the world-renowned choir, which has traveled the world, performing event for the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II. Senator John Smith greeted the waiting crowd by commending Pastor Joseph Garner for his work in the church and community. The choir sang all of the crowd’s favorites for well over an hour. The closing number featured “Mama” Burkes, the 78-year-old lead singer who has become the trademark of the Mississippi Mass Choir. City of Leesville Mayor C. Robert Rose presented the choir with a proclamation declaring the weekend of May 20-22, Mississippi Mass Choir Weekend.
“It’s good when God’s people can get together and enjoy the abundance of life granted us by faith in Christ,” said Family Day assistant coordinator, Charlotte Cooper.
The weekend began at  the Vernon Parish Fairground’s building on Friday night with a Family Night Talent show. Participants competed for almost $1,000 in prizes before an audience of over one hundred people. Winners in the youth division were first place - Akeem Johnson and Charles Carver; second place - Rodrick Wilson; and third Place - Raheem Johnson. Winners in the adult division were first place - Natoshia Blow; second place - Jason Patrillo and third place - Shirley Bell.
The Family Day Celebration continued on Saturday morning at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
What started out as a morning of rain, thunder and lightning ended up as one good old-fashioned crawfish festival. Praise teams and youth groups from the First St. Paul Baptist Church of Leesville and the Preach for the Right Church of New Llano joined in the celebration with performances by their praise teams and youth mime ministries.
Crawfish, catfish, hamburgers and hot dogs, cakes, candies and all kinds of homemade goodies were consumed while the crowd was entertained by music groups from Pleasant Hill and by special guest recording artist Sean Ardoin and the Reflections of God’s Kingdom Zydeco band.
The excitement was obvious as onlookers took to the street with a group dance as Sean Ardoin performed one of his hit songs, “Deep Water.” There were plenty of activities for the children and youth. A basketball tournament under the giant pavilion kept the youth occupied while the younger youth enjoyed balloon jumps and other supervised activities for their age group.
Garner thanked area businesses, who help sponsor the weekend, including The Merchants and Farmers Bank, Sabine State Bank, IBG Counseling services of Seattle, Wash., Holiday Inn Express of New Llano, City Savings Bank and the Vernon Bank.
"The Pleasant Hill Baptist Church will continue to provide wholesome and enriching activities for the Leesville/Ft. Polk community,” Garner said, “We are committed to the health and welfare of children and families in our area. Our witness of God has to be tangible and meaningful in order to have an impact upon hurting people.”