40,000 Attend Christian Music Festival Despite Heat Wave

The Hills Alive Festival, held annually at Memorial Park in Rapid City, S.D., wrapped up this past weekend, bringing in an estimated 40,000 attendants despite intense heat.

In its 22nd year, the two-day festival had both days at temperatures around 100 degrees Fahrenheit as part of a long term heat wave running through the region and expected throughout the week.

The rough weather did not discourage concert-goers, however, that wanted to experience the inspirational performances.

"I've come before and it always seems to be hot weather this weekend," explained Ryan Walters of Gillette, Wyo., to the Rapid City Journal. "It doesn't keep me from coming back."

Nearly a dozen bands played at this year's event. Some of the top performers included Rebecca St. James, Mercy Me, and Salvador.

Organizers run the festival every year as a way to reach out to the community and show the vibrant side to living a Christian life.

"There seems to be a real stigma about Christianity, that it's not fun or God is only a very serious thing," said Tom Schoensteadt, promoter of Hills Alive, to the Rapid City Journal. "But with this event, we want to show people that it's not all about the traditional and that this helps them to have a good time and help others see and experience what Christianity is about."

Despite being around for more than 20 years, the festival has only been free for the past five years. They hope to bring in more people by eliminating the cost, allowing people to just enjoy the acts.

The inclement weather forced many people into the shade, some people arriving almost half a day early to reserve a spot out of the sun.

Other activities besides the concert included a late-night coffeehouse concert, and a mother-daughter after-hours hosted by St. James.

Coordinators are still learning how to improve the festival and meet the needs of its growth over the past years. They hope to create a positive experience that people can take away and feel closer to God.

"We're in the helping business of trying to show what God can do in their lives," added Schoensteadt.

The heat is expected to become even more intense, according to the National Weather Service, and stick around for at least another week, possibly more.