GEORGE For the last 10 years, Creation Northwest festival has offered music fans the opportunity to fellowship against a breathtaking backdrop during a three-day event that features some of today's most popular music artists and speakers. This year's event takes place July 25-28 at the Gorge Amphitheater, in George, Wash.
Creation Festival co-founder Harry Thomas explains that program coordinators like to book a broad range of musical acts, but when it comes down to it, the program is heavily youth-driven.
"Most certainly worship cuts across age barriers," Thomas said, "but the main bands and speakers are chosen on how they relate, or their potential to relate, to youth."
That means big-name rock, hip-hop and worship artists are headlining the festival, including: Switchfoot, Chris Tomlin, tobyMac, newsboys, Relient K, The David Crowder Band, Jars of Clay and Kutless.
Other familiar acts, like Day of Fire, Family Force Five, MxPx, Stellar Kart, Superchic[k], Barlow Girl, KJ-52, Hawk Nelson, and Sanctus Real, are playing as well. And the line up also includes some artists making their first appearance at the festival, which is exciting for music fans.
Dustin Ruth, lead vocalist for Tooth and Nail's Ruth, says that they've been getting emails from fans who can't wait to see the band take the Fringe Stage Thursday afternoon.
"It's going to be a blast," he says.
"The majority of the [music] industry is built around summer," Ruth explains. "There are a few big tours, but most of them are based around festivals."
That means more shows to play and more chances to meet fans, and for these Portland, Ore., natives, the chance to see family and friends. The band has been on the road non-stop for the past six months. After the festival they'll head home for a quick break.
Although Centricity recording artist Downhere has never played Creation Northwest before, this isn't their first experience with the organization. The Canadian rockers have played at Creation Northeast, been to Marrakech, Morocco for Friendship Fest, and gone on a cruise with the Creation team. They're looking forward to their first appearance at the festival when they play the Main Stage Friday evening.
"We've always heard about what a beautiful, wonderful location this is," said drummer Jeremy Thiessen. "All the other events we've done with the Creation folks have been extremely well-organized and handled, so our expectations are pretty high."
"We've got a lot of great friends and fans in the Washington area as well, so it will be fun to see them again," he added. "Location is always a plus, but for us it's always about the people we meet. That's what we're looking forward to most."
Connecting with fans is just one of the reasons artists look forward to festivals like Creation. Another is that they get to connect with each other.
Much of the time, artists are interacting with record label executives, radio promoters, and marketing people who generally gauge how well one band is doing by comparing it to others. Outside of industry events or tours, artists don't get to interact much with each other.
That's one thing Starfield's Tim Neufeld is looking forward to doing.
"We're friends with a lot of other artists and it seems we only see each other at [Gospel Music] Week and at festivals," Neufeld said. "Backstage socializing is really nice."
Sanctus Real drummer Mark Graalman agrees.
"We get to spend a lot of time with other artists, forget about the business, and remember that we're all doing the same thing for the Lord," Graalman said. "That promotes camaraderie, unity and a sense of friendship between bands."
That opportunity to connect with other musicians can be a surreal experience says newcomer Phil Wickham.
"I remember when 20 of us kids would pack the church's 12-seater van to go see bands like Jars of Clay or Switchfoot play live," he said. "It's definitely fun to be on the other side of the stage now, sharing it with the same bands I used to watch."
Wickham shares the stage Wednesday with Jars of Clay and Thursday with Switchfoot.
In addition to the music, speakers Pam Stenzel, Reggie Dabbs, Justin Lookadoo, Bob Lenz, Zoro, Jose Zayas, Jeremy Kingsley, David Burke and Ron Luce will encourage festival-goers in their faith and challenge them to live a life more fully committed to following Christ.
"Our purpose is always to touch people with the timeless message of the Gospel," Thomas said. "Creation is more than a music festival; it is also a teaching event with a strong emphasis on missions and being used of God."Tickets and camping packages for Creation Northwest are still available. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.creationfest.com/nw or call 800-327-6921.