Atlanta Fest Mixes Gospel, Rock, Roller Coasters

The 21st Annual Atlanta Fest 2007 kicks off Thursday, inviting tens of thousands of faithful fans to see the nation's best Christian bands.

Sponsored yearly by youth-oriented Micah Music Ministries, the three-day music festival will again be held at Six Flags Over Georgia, where families can enjoy roller coasters, a wide variety of gospel music, and, most importantly, the Word of God.

At the heart of the fun is a mission to reach teens and young adults with the message of Christ and provide a place for youth ministries to have a safe, entertaining alternative.

"Atlanta Fest is more than roller coaster and Christian rock music," explain promoters on the Atlanta Fest website. "It is the perfect opportunity for a family with teens or a church youth group to experience God in a real-world setting."

Last year, the event drew about 65,000 people and promoters are expecting more of the same this year.

About 50 of the top Christian musicians have been signed on to play this year on three stages. Among the names are the Newsboys, Third Day, Jeremy Camp, David Crowder Band, Aaron Shust, Hawk Nelson, Skillet, Family Force 5, and DecembeRadio.

Micah Music Ministries began the event as a way to be more relevant to teens who are so moved my music, and the theme park setting allows Christians and non-Christians to feel comfortable with attending a Jesus-driven festival.

"Atlanta Fest is a life-changing event that is leaving a legacy of evangelism, discipleship, and faith," explained a description on the website. "The message of the music is always positive, upbeat and hopeful, [and] the Gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly presented."

The cost of one ticket to the festival not only gets attendees into the music concerts but it also gives full access to the Six Flags park, which includes eleven roller coasters (one the tallest in the southeast) and three water rides.

There are several creative outreach tools as well, such as a multimedia "Prayer Labyrinth," Christian karaoke, live Bible studies, and seminars on Christian living.

Unsigned Christian bands can also get their first break as part of Atlanta Fest in that it offers an online music contest called the "Artist Ovation Talent Search." Artist Ovation is much like an online community space such as MySpace or Facebook, but Christian bands can upload their music onto the site where they are voted on by fellow members in the web-based population.

The winners of the talent search will not only get to perform live at Atlanta Fest 2007, but they will also receive a recording contract with Word or Fervent records.

Everything is a part of Micah Music Ministry's mission "to provide young people with opportunities to discover God's redemptive story and embrace its reality and truth at a heart, mind and soul level through music and the study of God's Word."

The ministry is also unique for holding another Christian music festival in the heart of the Islam region. Friendship Fest, held for its second year in Marrakech, Morocco, drew in some 220,000 natives last month with its Christian themed music.

The event featured both American and Moroccan artists and was hailed as a "testament to religious tolerance and mutual respect among people of vastly different cultures."