Spirit West Coast officials bask in afterglow of successful festival

DEL MAR — After logging about 41,000 tickets sales over its three-day festival run, Spirit West Coast organizers proclaim it as the most successful event yet.

That's not just based on, "Oh, it was a good, fun time," but on really important things.

This year, officials recorded more than 650 people responding to altar calls and 160 first-time decisions for Christ.

In addition, officials were pleased with walk-up gate sales for Saturday that were up 38 percent.

"It's a little early to process everything to say we are going to change things and what those things will be," said Jon Robberson, promoter of the Memorial Day weekend event.

Some things that will stay the same, he said, was the opening day banquet, which was well attended. During the event, five of the festival's artists rubbed elbows with attendees, sharing stories and jokes. Christian illusionist Brock Gill should also be back, Robberson said, adding that his events were packed and well-received.

The main headliners all performed well, with Jeremy Camp, in his first end-of-the-night performance presented a "concert worthy of a closer," the promoter said.

"There weren't too many surprises because we didn't have a lot of new people to be surprised by," he said.

Even so, newcomers San Jose-based Masada, described by Robberson as a funky horns band in the mold of Tower of Power, was impressive.

"They were so good live," he said. "They really lit it up."

Local pastors Mike MacIntosh and Bob Botsford were also singled out for their talks, as was Darrell Scott, father of Columbine murder victim Rachel Scott.

In a repeat from last year, Seventh Day Slumber's Joseph Rojas talked about hopelessness and the need for God to a crowd of 1,500 people. When the audience, mostly comprised of 15 to 30 year olds, was asked, "How many of them had contemplated suicide over the last couple of weeks," a third of the audience raised their hands, resulting in 80 new commitments for Christ.

Robberson said Rojas is appreciated for his candor.

"He uses that in-your-face approach with that age group that needs to be dealt with like that," he said.

Blending in with the crowd, major military support was added with 80 service men and women helping set up and serve on the ministry team, including one man, who wished to remain anonymous, had just returned from his third tour of duty in Iraq.


Music competition
Another new venue, sponsored by America's Christian Music Showcase, included a talent search and showcase. More than 115 contestants were judged for their performance, song-writing, musical ability and audience impact by music industry professionals.

Grand-prize winners included winning band Aspects of Life, a Latino/pop band from Riverside, and Tristan Green, a 16-year old singer-songwriter from Sun Valley, who was the winning vocalist.

Both winners won free entrance into the Gospel Music Association's Music in the Rockies in Estes Park, Colo. and an opportunity to perform live on one of the Spirit West Coast Main Stages. Tristan Green opened for Audio Adrenaline, and Aspects of Life opened for the band Falling Up.

"The showcase is not just an occasion to single out the top talent like a typical talent search," said ACMS Showcase founder Brian Cole. "It's also an opportunity to provide some general career guidance to emerging artists."

Another showcase is scheduled for SWC Monterey in August. Registration fees are $100 per person, and include admission to the festival for the (single) day the registrant is performing.

Now that the festival is entering its fourth year, Robberson said its personality and character is starting to emerge.

"In the long run of an ongoing event like this, we're only in our third year," he said of the just completed season. "That's not a long time, but we feel like we got a great stride going on or a momentum if that's what you want to call it."

Next year's festival will be held May 25 to 27.

Published, July 2006