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Hooper: ‘Pause for Peace’ at the Strawberry Festival? Believe it.

By Ernest Hooper
Believe It, the latest video from the Soul Circus Cowboys and lead singer Billy McKnight, continues to fuel the popularity of the band's "Pause for Peace" movement. | Photo courtesy of the Soul Circus Cowboys.

The Florida Strawberry Festival conjures up all kinds of images and sounds.

Itís a super sensory smorgasbord of marvelous music, bright lights, aromatic thrills, big cheers, piercing screams, and delectable tastes.

Definitely tastes.

Imagine, however, if all the activities titillating your senses paused for 20 seconds. What if the roving red-vested volunteers took a break from disseminating information, the midway rides slowed to a still, the racing pigs stopped racing and the guy screaming, "Let me guess your weight" fell silent? What if the folks devouring strawberry shortcake quieted their ooos and ahhs of delight ó just for a moment at 7 p.m. on Saturday?

Can you believe it?

Okay, itís probably too much to ask a festival that annually draws more than 500,000 people to corral the masses for a silent moment full of faith and hope and prayer. But for nearly two years, the Tampa-based Soul Circus Cowboys and lead singer Billy McKnight have asked their fans to do just that.

In the wake of the 2016 Pulse Night Club shooting, McKnight, a Brandon native, posted a request on Facebook called "Pause for Peace," and asked everyone to pause or pray for 20 seconds every day at 7 p.m.

The gesture has ballooned into a following with thousands taking the moment to come together and reflect on the world we live in today. The Soul Circus Cowboys elevated the request with the 2017 premier of an inspiring video of the song Believe It

It begins with McKnight lighting a single candle and then the lights spread to others. The lyrics ask us to imagine an idealistic world.

I dream of a place where

Grace erases hate

And Love Takes its place

Can you believe it? Can you believe it?

My mindís climb to the top of the stairs

Somebodyís there who cares and swears

If you can dream it, you can believe it.

The movement and the song continue to grow in popularity nationally even though itís from a band more likely to show up on a stage in Apollo Beach than in Nashville. It could become an anthem for teens planning the March For Life rally in Washington, D.C., in the wake of the Parkland Stoneman Douglas shooting.

Still, Iím firmly convinced itís a mistake to sleep on the Soul Circus Cowboys, which includes lead guitarist Rick Morgan, bassist Mike McMahon and drummer Jason Alfano.

With a versatile mix of rock, country and soul, they move crowds wherever they go. While moving the world might be a more difficult task, there are signs of growing success.

Top40-Charts.com, an international site based in London, recently praised the song and its inspiring message, stating that, "(It) allows the artists to subtly re-acquaint the viewers with the moral compass which we all seek to keep alive."

McKnight said Heartland Network and Sidewalks Network out in California have picked up the video. GAC cable network will air the video nationally starting March 24.

Can you believe it?

So maybe the vision of the entire Strawberry Festival quieting to a hush is more than we can ask, but at 7 p.m. on Saturday (March 10), inside the festivalís Publix Showcase Tent, Iím sure everyone sitting before the Soul Circus Cowboys can pause, pray and dream of a better world.

I can believe it.

Thatís all Iím saying.