Thursday, June 28, 2007


More than 50,000 people gathered here for the nation’s largest Christian music event, as the four-day Creation Festival began yesterday with performances by recording artists including Switchfoot.

The festival will feature more than 70 groups performing on two stages before concluding Saturday night with the Newsboys, an Australia-based Christian pop band.

The Creation Festival has grown rapidly since beginning with “about 5,000 people” in 1979, said festival co-founder Harry Thomas.

“We had no idea it would mushroom into what it is,” said Mr. Thomas, 63, who recalled how he and a friend first conceived the event “at my kitchen table.”

Tens of thousands camp out all four days of the festival at Agape Farm here in southwestern Pennsylvania, many arriving Tuesday night in campers and RVs, with thousands more pitching tents on a site that sprawls over 600 acres.

A larger-than-usual attendance is expected this year, Mr. Thomas said. The annual festival was canceled last year because torrential rain caused extensive flooding on the site, and the prepaid tickets from last year’s event will be honored this year.

In addition to the Christian rock groups, amplified by a 160,000-watt sound system on the main stage, festivalgoers will hear messages from 20 evangelists and other speakers, including Joshua Harris, senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg.

Hundreds of vendors and exhibitors add to the festival, which has its own local FM radio station broadcasting the show live, as well as a podcast site online. Among the event’s logistical requirements are more than 600 portable toilets.

Creation’s sponsoring organization, Come Alive International, now also stages Creation West each year in Washington state, as well as the Friendship Fest concert in Morocco that drew 220,000 last year.

More than 600 church youth groups — some from as far away as Texas — bring children and teenagers to the Pennsylvania event.

“It’s all about the Lord … and especially young people, getting them to come to a commitment to the Lord,” Mr. Thomas said. “We always have that evangelical thrust.”

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