Tens of thousands of evangelical Christian youths, families and leaders from more than 800 area churches will converge on the District Saturday and Sunday for the D.C. Festival, with music, activities and faith.
The free festival is open to Christians and non-Christians alike, said organizer Luis Palau, an Argentina-born evangelical minister whom some call the “new Billy Graham.”
“We want people to realize that following Jesus is a normal part of everyday life,” Mr. Palau told The Washington Times. “Symbols become passe and people would instantly turn it off. We want to draw in people who would be turned away by something ‘religious.’”
“This is putting our faith into practice,” said Dave Treadwell, 62, from Burke, who is helping organize the festival. “If you’ve got faith, you should show it and show your love for other people. This is one way to do that.”
On Saturday, a full week before the event, churchgoers and others were out in force doing landscaping, painting and picking up trash for a D.C. schools cleanup day in the name of Jesus.
“This is a chance for my [Bible study] to go out and help people,” said Rita Jevec, 28. Although she is almost nine months’ pregnant, she spent the morning shoveling dirt for a flower bed at Randall Highlands Elementary School in Southeast. “Our church’s goal is to reach Washington. This is a chance to empower a lot of people.”
Mrs. Jevec, who lives in Alexandria, said she also plans to attend the two-day festival if she “doesn’t have a baby by then.”
“The festival will be a good time for people to be together and to celebrate each other and God,” she said.
Mr. Palau’s organization, the Luis Palau Association, is based in Portland, Ore. He has been organizing similar festivals for six years, including an event in Buenos Aires that drew more than 1 million people.
The evangelist has 10 more festivals planned this year, including an event in Beijing in November.
The festival in the District will feature a children’s stage, a skate park, a sports center, Christian speakers and more than 10 contemporary Christian bands, including Steven Curtis Chapman and Third Day. Activities will be held between 12th and 14th streets on the Mall from 1 to 9:45 p.m. both days.
The D.C. Festival is expected to be the largest religious event on the Mall since 1997, when several hundred thousand people participated in a Promise Keeper’s rally.