Christian music festival comes to local YMCA camp

The contemporary Christian group NewSong, with singers Russ Lee and Eddie Carswell shown in a February concert in Atlanta, will headline Saturday’s Life in the Son music festival at YMCA Camp McConnell in Micanopy.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 10:35 a.m.

Wholesome music and outdoor activities will go hand in hand Saturday during Life in the Son, a Christian music festival planned near Micanopy.


Life in the Son

What: Christian music festival featuring NewSong and other performers with outdoor activities
When: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday
Where: YMCA Camp McConnell, 210 SE 134 Ave., Micanopy
Admission: $25, $20 for ages 10 and young, free for ages 5 and younger; horseback riding available for $20, ziplining for $10 and archery for $5

The inaugural festival begins at 9 a.m. at YMCA Camp McConnell, a 200-acre camp facility near Micanopy.

The contemporary Christian rock band NewSong headlines the festival’s main-stage lineup from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Founded in 1981, the band is known for such hits as “The Christmas Shoes,” which topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in 2001.

The main stage also will feature Dove Award-winner Aaron Shust, Grammy nominee Royal Taylor, and the husband-and-wife duo Love & the Outcome.

A second stage hosted by The Pulse 106.9 will feature such local and area groups as the FM Williams Band, October Glory, Undeserved and The Backseat Disciples from noon to 5:15 p.m.

Along with the music, the festival will feature a variety of activities such as swimming, basketball, horseshoes and Frisbee golf included in admission. Ziplining, horseback riding and archery will be offered for additional fees.

“It’ll be something really special in the community, something that’s not really happened before,” said Richard Dreher, the event’s organizer and promoter.

Dreher, who is also president of the nonprofit Project Gainesville, has organized several events in the past, including the Gainesville Community Fest in 2012 and the Paynes Prairie 5K, but this is his first music festival. Though he and Robert McClellan, who will handle backstage production, had been kicking around the idea for several years, it didn’t come to fruition until early 2013, when the pair met with Camp McConnell director John Lyon.

“Richard came out to visit, and we talked a lot about the event and the positive impact it would make on the community,” Lyon said.

While much of the event’s proceeds will go to the camp’s scholarship for disadvantaged summer campers, both Lyon and Dreher agreed the visibility the event will bring to the camp was equally important.

“I was quite amazed talking to people in the community, some who lived here their whole lives, that didn’t even realize the camp was here,” Lyon said. “It’s a great place for retreats and church services, and we just want people to know we’re here for them if they’re looking for a nice place to hold those types of events.

In keeping with the event’s family theme, alcohol and drugs are prohibited, and a modest dress code will be enforced.

“We’re just trying to keep things conservative for the families, but we’re not trying to be too militant about the dress code,” Dreher said.

Although the festival is definitely Christian-based, Dreher said anyone is welcome to attend for the activities, regardless of faith.

“It’s not meant to be an exclusionary festival,” he said. “I’m really in support of positive, family-friendly events, and I think we need more of them in our communities.”

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