The city of Omaha, Neb., will witness its largest-ever outdoor event as one of the world's most known evangelists brings an expected 20,000-30,000 people to his Heartland Festival.
Argentina-native Luis Palau – a major evangelical figure in Latin America and now in the United States – will be hosting the two-day celebration starting July 14 at Omaha's Qwest Center, attempting to unite the people in the "heartland of America."
About 300 churches – one quarter of Omaha's congregations – are expected to contribute and attend, and residents are excited to have a faith event of such magnitude.
"Omaha has never seen what they're getting ready to see," explained Dr. Curtis Dodd, senior pastor at Westside Church, to KETV 7 News. "Omaha has never been this unified, at least with churches."
As main activities for the festival, attendants will listen to inspirational speeches from Palau, listen to nightly concerts, and engage in family activities throughout the grounds.
The celebration has brought in some top names in Christian music including tobyMac, Jeremy Camp, Kirk Franklin, Salvador, KJ52, and Mandisa.
Two years in the making, the event will be completely free – a way to encourage believers and non-believers to join in the festivities.
"We want this festival to lift up everyone in the community," said Palau to KETV 7 News. "Everyone is welcome. That's why it's free."
The event has also drawn a Catholic crowd. The Omaha archdiocese has even taken on an active role in promoting the festival to the Catholic churches in the area, helping to put together what could be a quite diverse crowd.
"It just brings the faith community together," said Phil Tackett, a volunteer from Thanksgiving Lutheran Church in Bellevue, to KETV 7 News. "So many times we just stay in our little comfort zones and our areas and it's just a great event that brings us together for one cause."
To aid in-need individuals in the surrounding community, organizers are also encouraging attendants to bring at least one non-perishable food with them to the event which will go to The Food Drive Compassion Project that began earlier this year. Food will be distributed through 14 different pantry ministries.
A smaller highlight, the festival will also house the largest LCD screen available in North America.
Palau, based in Oregon, has done ministry work and evangelism for about 40 years now. He got his start alongside the Rev. Billy Graham, eventually creating his own organization with the help of the legendary U.S. evangelist.