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Band will add music to fare of 'Supper Bowl'
By MELANIE AVE
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000
NEW TAMPA -- When the Super Bowl XXXV festivities get under way in Tampa, Mark Engstrom and his Christian rock band Clean Slate will be there, trying to help the poor and spread the gospel.
Engstrom's band will perform at "Supper Bowl," a daylong charitable event held annually a week before the Super Bowl and sponsored by Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing and Somebody Cares Tampa Bay.
Free food and clothing will be given out, as well as health and medical information. Local professional and college athletes will be on hand to sign autographs and talk to fans. And Engstrom's band will be there playing originals and covers.
"What we're aiming to do is present the gospel in a way that's palatable," said Engstrom, who lives in Land O'Lakes and plays piano for the Tampa Bay Presbyterian Church in New Tampa. "Some people have weird ideas about what church is. Some have never been in one.
"We want them to know that the gospel is relevant to their lives."
More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the event, sanctioned by the Super Bowl Tampa Bay Task Force and scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 20 at Rowlett Park, Waters Avenue and 22nd Street N.
Super Bowl Sunday is Jan. 28 at Raymond James Stadium.
Operation Blessing, based in Virginia Beach, Va., has sponsored the Supper Bowl for the past six years. It attracts 5,000 to 12,000 people each year.
"It's a food distribution, essentially to help inner-city families and families at a disadvantage financially," said Donna Strout, spokeswoman with Operation Blessing. "It's set up outdoors in a festival-type environment. We don't want people to think of it as just a handout."
During the Tampa event, volunteers expect to hand out more than 100,000 pounds of free food. Numerous professional athletes will be on hand, including Robin Cole, all-pro linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew and Chicago White Sox third baseman Herbert Perry.
"It gives people who can't go to the Super Bowl a chance to meet some players and get their needs met," said Daniel Bernard, president and executive director of Somebody Cares Tampa Bay. "Really, it's just demonstrating God's love in a practical way."
Engstrom, who formed Clean Slate about six years ago, said the band saw the event as a way to reach out. The band also will be giving out their self-titled CDs.
"This is not a big evangelical rally where you have a good time and it's all over," said Engstrom, a self-employed computer consultant. "This is to really establish a long-term relationship with people."
The rock, jazz and rhythm and blues music performed by Clean Slate is geared toward adults. The "family friendly" band, as Engstrom described the group, plays Christian and secular music, such as People Get Ready. The seven band members, who live in the Tampa Bay area, regularly perform at events and festivals. Engstrom said the band's goal is not to be nationally known, but regarded as a professional group of musicians with an important message.
"None of us wants to be a rock star," he said. "Basically, we're a draw to get people to that event."
- Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.