A local Coachella of Christian music

Praise in the Mountains rocks its worship for an 18th year

Machaira rocks for Jesus.

Machaira rocks for Jesus.


Head to the hills for Praise in the Mountains, the local Coachella of Christian music. The 18th annual music fest will go down at the Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley on Saturday, September 5, from noon to 8:30 p.m., where seven gospel groups will bring the Jesus-loving funk for some free, nondenominational worship.

Praise in the Mountains was begun 18 years ago by The Kingdom Foundation and musical group Machaira as an outreach event aimed to gain support for churches and to strengthen communities. The event aims to unite churches while encouraging people to make a commitment to God. Last year, the event drew more than 2,000 people, and a much larger turnout is expected this year, especially because of the difficult economic times and the growing number of people seeking clarity through religion.

Gary Hamner, nicknamed “MC Hamner,” works for many Christian nonprofit organizations locally and has been involved with Praise in the Mountains for years. Hamner says he has seen what the festival has done for people. He recalls once that a man who had just been released from prison handed him a note and said, “Hey, cowboy, let me tell you my story. You see this note? I was going to kill myself. But you know what? I have tried everything else, why not try this?”

Hamner believes that “the words and the gospel were so powerful to him that he realized suicide wasn’t the answer, that maybe this was all worth stopping and listening to.” There is, Hamner said, “a breaking in the spirit of men and their families today.” He pointed to the current economic conditions, leading to marital failures, the loss of homes and jobs. “The only stimulus plan that will work is God’s. This is the only hope left for all of us, united as one nation under God.”

Performers at this year’s show include event organizers Machaira, as well as LouAnn Lee and the Celebration Praise Team, the Gospel Motivators and God’s Country.

Machaira is a professional four-piece, evangelical rhythm-and-blues outreach group that spread messages of hope in an atmosphere of acceptance and accessibility. They have traveled as far as Russia and been featured in the Hollywood film Chores.

LouAnn Lee is a producer, singer and songwriter, and has had songs grace the Christian Radio Weekly charts for as long as eight weeks. She works both internationally and locally, at various church retreats and events for women. According to Dennis Hulbert, a member of Machaira and the main driving force behind the event, “LouAnn is a huge act in the Christian music world.”

The Gospel Motivators, a soul-gospel group with a home base at Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Sacramento, is known for a rollicking, stand-up-and-dance-your-praise sound. The group has performed on Good Day Sacramento and at many major concert events in the Sacramento area as one of the region’s premier gospel groups.

Praise in the Mountains is a free concert and is extremely family-friendly. There will be fun for the kids, food, information and religious counseling on hand. Hulbert encourages social groups, youth groups, families and anyone looking for some good, clean fun to head to the mountains for a day of music and worship.