Lifest 2012 as reviewed in Phantom Tollbooth. Long live the Christian festival!

Oshkosh, Wisconsin   
July 11 – July 15, 2012

Labeled as a "Party With A Purpose", Lifest 2012 again provided a true balance of family, faith, and fun. This year, their 13th consecutive year of operation, was sparser, smarter, and smoother than recent years. As many Christian festivals have shortened their venue and some have closed operations, Lifest re-focused.

While slightly reducing the bigger name musicians, speakers, and vendors, something was offered for every taste. From Brian ‘Head’ Welch and White Collar Sideshow to Casting Crowns and Matthew West, each taste was provided for. Beyond the music, speakers, merchandise, information, and refreshments the venue included art for children and adults, musician meet-and-greets, artist feedback sessions, speaking engagements, prayer tents, games, and other forms of entertainment and direction for all ages.

Located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at the Sunnyview Expo Center, Lifest continues to bring in thousands in attendance both daily and for a week of camping over its five day period. The location is held in a county fairground with excellent facilities like an air conditioned merchandise building, showers and flush toilets, many volunteers and services including patrols on horseback! Many attendees make Lifest a yearly pilgrimage making community a natural benefit.  

With over 150 acts on 8 stages it is impossible to take in everything. Amid my foray, I can speak highly of Switchfoot, Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken, Downhere, Sanctus Real, Thousand Foot Krutch, Building 429, and a host of others.  Speakers including Reggie Dabbs and Tony Nolan moved the crowd spiritually with many saved on the evening of their events.  

The opportunity to rock only feet from the stage with Jon Foreman and Switchfoot would be enough for many. Add to that witnessing one of the last group performances by Downhere on stage and later around a campfire, and having Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken perform solo and as a duet at the same time on the same stage were definitely priceless. (Look for my interview with Sandra and Derek in this issue of PT.) Another choice moment was hearing both Derek Webb and later Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch share their faith and art during Artist’s Feedback sessions. These are truly inspiring moments.  

Many, and hopefully most, attend Christian festivals to renew and refresh both emotionally and spiritually, I certainly fall into this group. Spending time amid thousands of Christians, immersed in the spiritually-filled arts has this exact outcome. We need this outlet in our lives. Long live the Christian festival!

Scott S Mertens

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