Attending Ichthus 16 out of the last 19 years, many of us are grieving the end of an era… Love It or Hate It, the last Ichthus Music Festival was held in 2012. The longest running Christian Music Festival at 42 years (inspired after Woodstock) is ceasing operations in 2013.
With trends that include $279 Beatz Headphones, Music isn’t dead, so why are music festivals struggling? Many of us prophesied the end a decade ago. Giving voice to concerns, offering feedback, research, and the latest….. all were ignored in the face of tradition.
I'm as loyal as all get out, yet with trends that evolve in 2 to 3 years vs. decades, the signs and shifts were long discussed and evident:
• Venue competition as well as commonplace LOCAL concerts diminish the need for it.
• Many don’t have Time to do a festival of days vs devoting a mere evening.
• Priority change in music=downloads & videos press performers to go beyond to live up to expectations (pyrotechnics, gimmicks and production costs).
• Population interest in general- younger generation is not willing to camp and/or endure
• Youth groups losing funding and support to attend due to economic pressures.
• The shift to alternate and new music was embraced, yet the average festival attendee was still mainstream. The vast majority of my students didn’t see anything to get excited about…
• Most other nonprofit organizations are struggling as well, so their support was fleeting…
• Festival volunteers were asked to do more for less… creating a bad taste in their mouths.
• The small local church (the typical attendees that promoted the festival) are struggling to survive themselves… the older devotees no longer attend.
• Previous bad experiences whether mud, flood, cold,… eliminated the festival from schedules.
• Ichthus was different from many. In general was a wonderful setting with vibrant speakers & messages, yet too challenging for the average student.
The official press release went like this: Aaron Ranson, the chairman of the Ichthus Ministries board, told WKYT-TV, that “the economy has changed over the past decade and attendance has decreased”. They changed annual dates, made staff and budget cuts, and even tried to sell the 111-acre farm off of U.S. 60 where the outdoor festival is held each year.
Organizers said that about 1,000 people bought tickets for the 2013 festival and they can request a refund at www.ichthusfestival.org/refund .
More official details: http://www.wlky.com/news/local-news/kentucky-news/After-42-years-Ichthus...
This quiet fizzle of the 4 decade+ Ichthus Festival doesn’t diminish the tons of memories with students. Life Changing moments are forever sketched on my mind. The mourning has already begun as colleagues and former students communicate the loss. It’s as if a piece of their history has quietly been betrayed, and murdered.
As a pastor (while it always was a ton of work to get ready, pack, and deploy) the week at Ichthus offered rest, renewal, and relaxation. A wonderful format to really get to know the intimate details of your student’s lives. The downtime factor allowed for a genuine focus, and release. One year I attended despite having Walking Pneumonia (much to others surprise, I accomplished a complete recovery while sleeping in a tent with 19 hr days).
Some favorite Memories over the years include:
Mudfest (literally rafting on rivers of mud, posing like Washington crossing the Delaware.....thanks to the planning of a very prepared leader);
Crazy Cold = Enduring Snow on the last day of the festival in front of a fire Early 4 AM “Tarp Runs” to save our Concert location;
Tearing an ACL while in a Showdown mosh pit;
Seeing Dreams realized as Jr Highers become Stage Performers;
Working performance Security and/or AV help as we received OJT;
Offering counseling to and networking with fellow youth workers;
1st exposure to IHOP (not the pancake place) tent worship;
Cleaning latrines, planting flowers, ticket booth ….
Squishing our way to be the front of a POD concert;
Offering a DATE sign-up, and interviewing possible canidates for a NPO assistant;
Heart to Heart conversations with sooooooooo many;
Launching water balloons with a slingshot at unsuspecting bystanders;
Compiling items for Goodie Bags to make students feel special;
Encouraging, praying for, and feeding Band members;
Listening and Finding new music to promote;
Playing Big and Bigger;
Figuring out how to make great food for large crowds on a grill on a budget;
Backstage access and getting those much desired signatures;
Eating tons of Chickfila (thanks to the company’s generosity in the Educator’s tent);
Working up themes of Star Wars (complete with light sabers), Luau, Bugs, Neon, …..;
And Communion with 1,000s!
I’ll never forget my first Ichthus. After being recruited by others to help with 6 teens at Anderson Evangelical… I arrived at the old fairground location about 11pm (after a 15 hour workday) to get some sleep. The vibrations from the performing band made for an original lullaby… and a truly unique experience. Looking back, it was probably 1 of the turning points of why & how I became enamored with youth work.
WHAT are some of your MEMORIES??
Music Festivals maybe going the way of the dinosaur, what is set to fill the vacuum?? The need to connect on a person to person basis/with others who share your faith; challenging the status quo; fully enjoying music; and being allowed to play and be a little crazy is still a great need in teens. Every year we are stretching the norms to get those precious life changing moments… the packaging just looks different!