The Ichthus Festival concluded its 40th year with sounds of praise despite having faced another year of rain and storms.
"The weather has never bothered us," pastor Jeff Hurst, who brought a group of teens from his church in Richmond, Ky., to join the thousands gathered for the June 10-11 festival.
"It is part of Ichthus," he told a local NBC affiliate.
Since Wednesday, young believers from around the nation had been gathering and camping out on the 111-acre Ichthus Farm in Wilmore, Ky., where they were joined by Christian music artists including Delirious?, Skillet, Israel Houghton, Kutless, Sanctus Real, Hawk Nelson, Fireflight, Stellar Kart, and more.
In all, more than 111 bands performed on 7 stages to continue an annual tradition that started in 1970 as a Christian reply and alternative to the 1969 Woodstock festival of upstate New York.
On Saturday, when the Ichthus Festival concluded, attendants marked the festival's 40th anniversary with a look back at its founders, including the late Dr. Bob Lyon, who was given the vision for the festival in 1969 as a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore.
When the ministry behind the festival, Ichthus Ministries, began in 1970 through the insight and creativity of Lyon and a group of concerned students at Asbury Theological Seminary, its intent was to offer the youth of America an alternative to the lifestyle and music choices which surrounded them in secular society.
"Woodstock was kind of a counter-culture movement, and Ichthus was kind of the counter-counter-culture movement," festival director Jeff James recalled recently in an interview.
Today, one of James' goals is to create a generation of young people who see themselves and their creativity as a value added in everyday American culture.
Aside from music, Ichthus featured inspirational speakers including Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way, Eric Samuel Timm of No One Underground, best-selling author Justin Lookadoo, and Pete Hise, founding and lead pastor of Quest Community Church in Lexington, Ky.
Also part of the movement is "Mission Ichthus," which has established opportunities for young believers to engage in the heart of Jesus' mission – to do "to the least of these." The three-day outreach, held prior to the festival, invited participants to be "others focused" and expand the Ichthus experience by being "doers of the Word and not hearers only."
"So much of the church has been about either criticizing or condemning the existing culture rather than being a positive influence," James noted to a reporter for The Jessamine Journal.
"[W]e don't condemn culture, but we're talking about the value of culture and God's value on human culture," he added.
Currently, the festival's stated vision is to present worship, performance, and teaching events to propel students' spiritual quest; to partner with other ministries to reach and mentor students; and to promote communities of faith to grow and invest in youth ministry.
This year, festival sponsors included Christian organizations such as SkyAngel, K-Love, Air1 and Compassion as well as secular companies such as Pepsi and Scion.