The humidity was high, the weather warm. The skies threatened rain.

But that didn't stop dozens of people from lining up and crowding into the newest restaurant at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre.

And the restaurant -- Gladys Knight and Ron Winans' Chicken & Waffles -- wasn't even open for business.

What these people braved the sticky Saturday-night weather for was not food, but a chance to see the legendary rhythm and blues singer perform a few of her greatest hits to promote her soon-to-open restaurant.

A day earlier, Knight met with reporters at her restaurant, where she talked briefly about dishes made from generations of old family recipes that will appear on the menus.

She plans such favorites as sweet potato cheesecake and entrees such as the Midnight Train -- four southern fried jumbo chicken wings and a waffle.

The restaurant is scheduled to open soon.

Knight's visit marked the second time in less than a year that a celebrity has invested in Prince George's. In October, basketball great Earvin "Magic" Johnson swooped into town to open his 12-screen movie theater, also at the Boulevard.

"I feel blessed to be in this place where we have so many upscale people," said Knight, a Las Vegas resident. "It's a family restaurant and the food has our love in it."

Knight started the restaurant, near Stonefish Grill and Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, with the late gospel singer Ron Winans, who died suddenly last month. She has two other Chicken & Waffles restaurants in Georgia. The Largo space features wood tones and a bar area with two flat-screen televisions.

Expansion to Prince George's was the idea of Knight's son, Shanga Hankerson, who oversees the Georgia restaurants. Hankerson, 28, bought a house in Upper Marlboro a year and a half ago to prepare for the Largo opening.

Hankerson identified the Prince George's location, then pitched the idea to his mother. She liked the idea of bringing her franchise to an affluent, predominantly black community that has long been loyal to her and her music.

"It's my mom's number one market for her music," Hankerson said. "We get the most sales per album release from the Washington, D.C., area. They are loyal to us."

Thomas Brown, an owner of Soul Fixin's, a nearby restaurant, said he likes celebrities opening businesses in the county. "It raises our visibility," Brown said. "The more well-known people we can get here, the better."

Alfonso Cornish, the county's deputy chief administrative officer, said the midsize restaurant, which seats 208, fills a need in Prince George's.

"People talk about upscale, and upscale is important," said Cornish, who oversees the county's economic development. "But you need to make sure you fill every level of retail."

Knight's plan is to be a part of that and more. She has joined with the Prince George's County Health Department's Medical Care for Children Partnership Program, which provides free or affordable health insurance to children. The restaurant will host special events and donate a portion of the proceeds to the program, which is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, according to Joe Woods, program manager.

Knight made a weekend out of it, performing Saturday night at the restaurant with several entertainers. The evening was a tribute to some of the big names in the entertainment industry who have died recently, such as funk artist Rick James, former "Pip" Edward Patten and soul singer Luther Vandross, who died July 1, two years after suffering a stroke.

Guests cheered as Knight, ever elegant in a peach tunic and white slacks, made her entrance.

Filmmaker and actor Robert Townsend introduced comedian George Wallace, who warmed up the crowd before Bebe Winans, brother of Knight's late partner. Bebe sang several songs, including "When You Pray," in memory of his brother.

Later, Bebe Winans joined Gladys's brother, Merald "Bubba" Knight, on stage while Gladys Knight sang the soulful crowd pleaser "Midnight Train to Georgia."

The star told the audience, which included local elected officials, such as state Sen. Nathaniel Exum and County Council Chairman Samuel Dean, that she hoped her restaurant would be a place to "fill your spirit."

Gospel singer Darwin Hobbs sang three Vandross songs, "Here and Now," "So Amazing" and "Dance With My Father," to honor the Grammy Award-winning singer.

Knight ended the evening with her hit "Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye."

Gladys Knight and Alfonso Cornish, Prince George's deputy chief administrative officer, visit Knight's Largo restaurant.

Gladys Knight's restaurant, Chicken & Waffles, is set to open soon.