DEL MAR, Calif. As Spirit West Coast prepares to usher in its seventh summer festival in this coastal enclave, fans will be treated to some event firsts, including a headline performance by veteran Christian performer Steven Curtis Chapman.
"We are excited about having him because it's long overdue," said promoter Jon Robberson, executive director of the three-day festival. "He's got so many songs. He's just a great person to have."
The festival will be held Memorial Day Weekend, May 28 to 30.
Chapman, Robberson said, is an example of talented musicians who for various reasons of timingconflicting schedules, studio bookings or personal commitmentsmay not be booked for festivals, even though his music has a wide audience appeal.
"Spirit West Coast is a real appropriate place for a broader talent pool," the promoter said. "When you are booking 60 artists the net can get cast widely."
Robberson said he believes Spirit West Coast guests will connect on a heart level to Chapman, who has been openly sharing pain and joy after a May 2008 car accident at the family home took the life of his 5-year-old adopted daughter, Maria.
"I think that's true anytime you are put back in the public limelight," he said. "Part of it is the humanity of being regular people who are not insulated from hurt. I think that's one of the unique things about Christian music, artists have been all about communicating with their audiences. Sharing mutual victories, mutual disappointments, is what connects people to Christian artists. It's more about the art and about sharing life together."
The singer's most recent album "Beauty Will Rise" emerged from that tragedy, prompting him to tell ABC's Robin Roberts the record's songs "are really my psalms."
The accident also drew national attention to his long-term commitment to adoption through Show Hope, a non-profit he founded with his wife, Mary Beth. The ministry seeks to remove financial barriers to adoption by providing grants to families, more than 2,000 to date. In addition to Maria, the couple has adopted two other girls from China.
"His real passion is adoption," Robberson said. "He's not only able to share his faith and his testimony directly, but he's able to create a circle that is changing lives, too."
Chapman's promotion of adoption complements the festival's ongoing support of child sponsorships with Compassion International, an allegiance Robberson likes to call "after-burner impact." That, he said, refers to an extension of ministry that outlasts the three-day festival.
"Good spiritual things are happening at another time and another place for a long, long time to come," he said, adding that a child who visits the festival may be inspired to become the next Chapman.
"That's going to be one of the beautiful things about heaven, we'll get to see how all of these things spin off. I love the mystery value of spin-offs. It happens when you make a lot of opportunities. Spirit West Coast offers a lot of those opportunities. You are not going to get the extended impact if you don't have the original impact."
For those seeking the "original impact" by attending the festival, there will plenty of shows to pursue.
Friday's line-up includes headliner Skillet, with other appearances by Tenth Avenue North, The Afters, Jonny Diaz, Shachah, B. Reith, comedian Thor Ramsey and the Indie Artist Showcase. The message will be presented by Francis Chan.
In addition to Chapman, Saturday's slate includes Jars of Clay, Family Force 5, Matthew West, Fireflight, Supertones, Phil Joel, Stellar Kart, Bread of Stone, Dominic Balli, comedians Bob Smiley and Daren Streblow, Indie Artist Showcase, Fan Forums and Song Shop seminars. Messages will be delivered by Matt Pitt, Phil Joel and musician Matthew West. West, Robberson said, has similar traits to Chapman and is upbeat about his faith.
"He's got a desire to communicate the gospel in addition to his music," Robberson said.
Sunday's closing festivities include the Newboys as headliners, as well as Kutless, BarlowGirl, Hawk Nelson, Francesca Battistelli, Seventh Day Slumber, Flatfoot 56, Number One Gun, Sarah Kelly, Shaun Groves, comedians Bob Smiley and Daren Streblow, Fan Forums and Song Shop seminars. Also presenting a seminar will be Shaun Groves, with the night's message presented by Matt Pitt.
Other performers to appear include Spoken, We Set Fire, Allornothing, Hazel And Vine, Lybecker, Josiah James, Sleep for Sleepers, Holland Davis and Philip Bardowell.
A first for Spirit West Coast is an on-site, 200-seat movie house, which will show free Christian-themed movies continuously throughout the festival's run, including "To Save a Life," "Fireproof," "Like Dandelion Dust," "Amazing Grace," "The Rally," "Midrange," "Hearing Everett," "End of the Spear," "Faith Like Potatoes" and "Gifted Hands." Two shorts, "Diner" and "The Gift," will also be shown.
As in previous years, children will have their own options in VeggieLand, with concerts, shows, a petting zoo, face painting, crafts and games. Also returning will be the Del Mar Sport Club and Skate Park.
Full event tickets are $120 in advance and $132 at the gate. Discounts are available for children 6 to 12 and groups of 12 or more. Children 5 and under are admitted free. One day tickets are $55 in advance, or $62 at the door.
For more information, visit www.spiritwestcoast.org.