SUMTER, S.C. — After nearly two years of planning, the Follow Me Crusade is coming to Sumter. The event starts on Monday night at 7 p.m. with a prayer session and will continue through Thursday.
"It's so exciting! Some of us haven't been sleeping," steering committee member Hope Turner told News 19. "We're excited for our community, we're just praying for God to shower down a great revival in the area."
Tuesday through Thursday, the events will start at 6:30 p.m. and feature different guests including Sumter natives Lee Brice and Bobby Richardson. Brice will be singing some of his original songs as well as worship music and Richardson will be the event MC.
"We're so blessed to have such celebrities in our community that were willing to give of their time and their talents," Turner said.
Steering committee member Joey Smoak says 100 churches throughout Sumter, Lee and Clarendon counties have been involved in the planning process. With that, he expects the event to be well attended.
"Personally, I'm expecting every seat in here to be filled and there to be overflow," he shared.
According to Smoak, that would be about 3,200 seats in the center with more seating available in the overflow section.
"There’s been a lot of hours put into this," Smoak detailed. "It took prayer, okay? That’s what it took."
Jeffrey Shuping serves alongside the other steering committee members. He has been in charge of preparing volunteers. From training and setting up the venue, he says it's been a team effort.
"We have a huge volunteer list. There's about 100 volunteers involved in this and we couldn't do it without them," Shuping said. "We’d like to see a big change in Sumter and we believe it’s going to happen."
With locals and visitors coming to the Sumter County Civic Center, Police Captain Robert Singleton says drivers should prepare for traffic.
"Watch for officers that may be directing traffic, watch for traffic that may be stopped waiting to turn in, and just be situationally aware that this event is going on for three nights here at the Sumter Civic Center," he advised. "We could have a large number of folks that are all trying to arrive at the same time. With the end of your workday and the beginning of this event, it being during the week, so pack your patience is what we’d like to tell people."
He says visitors can enter two different ways: at the front entrance from west Liberty Street or to the rear parking area from Oakland Avenue. As of now, Singleton says Artillery Drive will be closed. It may open to let attendees out at the end of each night's event, depending on traffic flow.
"There was a lot of planning and there’s a method to the madness. It may appear chaotic," Singleton explained. "With the collaboration that’s happened between the Sumter Police Department and the Sumter County Sheriff's Department and the organizers of the event, we think we’ve come up with a great plan that’s gonna get everybody in here as quickly as possible."
He says while plugging in the address on a GPS may bring you to the front parking entrance, Singleton recommends trying the rear parking area, where the Sumter Fair is typically hosted. There will be a shuttle service from the rear parking to the front entrance.