May 14

Glory at the Gardens Wraps Up with Kirk Franklin and Mandisa

by Staff

This weekend, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay wraps up Glory at the Gardens, a jam-packed festival of music and fellowship, with two of the biggest names in contemporary gospel music taking the stage in Gwazi Park at 4 p.m.

If there is one thing that Kirk Franklin understands, it is that soul and gospel have always been a part of the same close-knit family.

Kirk Franklin

But since his self-titled debut in 1993, Franklin has proven himself a pioneer by sprinkling hip-hop into the mix in a bold attempt to broaden the range of the traditional gospel audience. He changed musical history when his debut album, Kirk Franklin and the Family, became the first Gospel album to sell more than a million units. And after seven Grammy Awards, six NAACP Image Awards and more than 16 years as the top-selling Contemporary Gospel artist, Kirk Franklin shows no signs of slowing down.

Mandisa approaches everything with that same humble, self-effacing perspective that has drawn people to her since she first appeared on American Idol's fifth season just a few short years ago.


Those months were the beginning of major change in Mandisa's life - in more ways than one. They were certainly the launch of a promising new musical career, but they also represented another turning point for her when Idol judge Simon Cowell made negative comments about her weight. She admits now, as she has discussed at length in her book Idol Eyes: My New Perspective on Faith, Fat & Fame, that those hurtful words cut deeply. But in the months and years that have followed her days on American Idol, the debut CD and book, Mandisa has realized how much that experience and everything she learned from it has given her a platform to reach out to others through her music.

It was a major part of the songs she recorded for True Beauty, but she has since moved into an even deeper understanding of who she is and what she wants to communicate through the new collection of songs she recorded for Freedom. The jubilant first single, “My Deliverer,” is a perfect example of the empowering message: With its buoyant pop/funk track backing her up, Mandisa sings with a carefree confidence about feeling more alive than ever. “All of us, no matter what our circumstances, can find freedom in Christ,” Mandisa says. “And when you've found freedom like that, you've got to shout it out.”

Showtime is 4 p.m., and a VIP package, which includes lunch and reserved seating at the concert, is available.

Please visit for details.