The 9th Annual Lifest Festival is kicking off today, bringing together over 150 of top names in Christian music and comedy.
Held yearly at the Sunnyview Fairgrounds in Oshkosh, Wis., and running until Sunday, the event has organizers excited as they look forward to encouraging attendants to celebrate their faith while building a relationship with God.
This year's theme, "This is your festival," emphasizes how the five-day festival can reach out to people of all ages.
"There's something there for all ages and all styles," explain promoters on the Lifest website, "from adult contemporary to heavy metal to clean Christian comedy – from crazy teenagers and little kids, to good ol' mom and dad, even grandma will enjoy Lifest! Really! Everyone is welcome, and everyone will have an incredible experience. This is your festival."
Throughout the weeklong event, some of the biggest names in Christian entertainment will appear on five stages. The festival averages about 15,000 people each day, a result of the size of the celebration.
One of the unique aspects of Lifest compared to other Christian music festivals is an entire stage devoted to Christian comedians called the HappyFunTime stage. Last year was its first year, and the organizers are bringing it back after some strong positive feedback.
The main headliner for this year's comedy stage is former Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson who will be alongside fellow comedians Taylor Mason, Thor Ramsey, Daren Streblow, Joby Saad, and Sarah Shea, among others.
Wes Halula, director of communications for Life! Promotions, expressed how impressive it is to be a clean comedian in today's market considering how most jokes are simply based off cursing and dirty themes.
"The hard thing to do is be funny without doing those," said Halula to the Appleton Post-Crescent. "Then you know you are really funny, not just shooting fish in a barrel. The comedians that stay clean and are really funny, I have a lot of respect for them because they are working really hard."
A main attraction to the festival is obviously the huge number of Christian bands that are making their way to Oshkosh.
Playing at Lifest 2007 are Casting Crowns, Third Day, Newsboys, tobyMac, Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, Pillar, Skillet, Jars of Clay, David Crowder Band, Family Force Five, Barlow Girl, Aaron Shust, and many more.
"It's a really great festival. It's not just a glorified church picnic. It's a great festival with Grammy Award-winning artists," explained Tammy Borden, an event coordinators with Life! Promotions, to the Appleton Post-Crescent. "It encourages people and it helps people celebrate their faith in a way they don't usually get to."
This year will also have a clinic stage completely devoted to aspiring artists. On the platform, upcoming artists and songwriters can perform their tunes and receive critiques on how to improve their music.
"It's a cool thing where they can get some feedback," added Borden. "There's a lot of artists who come to the event and they don't have an outlet for that."
The festival will also offer a variety of extracurricular activities throughout the event for both youth and adults.
Coordinators hope that many people will come, especially non-Christians, and build up their relationship with God. Through the exciting atmosphere and fellowship, they hope to dispel the negative stereotypes surrounding Christians and bring many to Christ.
Lifest officially runs July 11-15.