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    Christian rally draws throng of teeny-boppers

    Some 30,000 teenagers visit Tropicana Field for the night of music and worship, organized by Texas-based Teen Mania Ministries.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2001

    ST. PETERSBURG -- It wasn't the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync or Britney Spears who lured 30,000 shrieking teens to Tropicana Field on Friday night.

    It was God's power through gospel and Teen Mania Ministries, the Texas organization that charged $79 at the door.

    "There's so many people here who are pumped for God, and that's what I want to be around," said Christine Davenport, a 16-year-old from Bradenton.

    While Kid Rock shook the Ice Palace on Friday, church youth groups from across the state packed Tropicana Field for Stand Up! Florida, a night of thunderous Christian music and worship. The program continues today.

    Teens and their chaperones streamed up the 900-foot mosaic tile walkway at the main entrance. Some carried Bibles. Others showed off their Fubu gear.

    Visibility was zero at the ticket windows as youth pastors, some holding extra tickets like fans at a Grateful Dead concert, rounded up their flock.

    Paula Daniels, 17, a member of Mount Raymond Full Gospel Baptist Church in Bradenton, stood in the thick of it.

    "People keep bumping into me, and nobody's saying excuse me, and they're supposed to have Jesus in their life," she told a friend.

    Nearby, a harried intern for Teen Mania Ministries talked into a headset. Her crew had been searching record stores for a rare music disc for a booth.

    "They found my CD, praise God," said Dottie Taylor, 20, of Tampa.

    Behind the doors, the music was so loud that two boys mocked each other, shouting, "What?"

    Video screens flashed the countdown.

    "Three, two, one," a booming voice announced.

    As a band played and flames of fire shot up from the stage in center field, Ron Luce, founder and president of Teen Mania Ministries, marched on stage.

    "You guys look great!" he told the crowd. "You made it. You look like an awesome army in this house!"

    They cheered.

    "How many of you are tired of MTV and Hollywood leading your generation?" Luce asked.

    More cheers.

    "Is there anyone here willing to stand up and lead your generation?" Luce asked.

    He told the teens to put their shoulders back and strut with an attitude while they loudly sang a song about living God.

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