"The Great Big Gospel Music Tent" came to the Kentucky State Fair August 15-25. It was the first of its kind at the Fair, offering a "family-friendly" alternative to some of the other tents and featured a variety of Christian music. The tent crossed racial, denominational and even cultural boundaries, bringing together churches from various regions in the state and Indiana participating as volunteers.
"The partnership with Youth for Christ and other churches in the greater Louisville area is a wonderful opportunity to multiply our effort to express the servant love of Christ to the world," says Todd Robertson, Missions Strategist for the Long Run Baptist Association. He adds, "This may very well be the biggest servant evangelism project that Louisville has ever seen." Chuck Jeter, Community Relations Director at Youth for Christ, states that "YFC is excited about the opportunity to carry on the great tradition started by Billy Graham almost 60 years ago, of going out into the community to meet people where they are and to reach them with the gospel."
State Fair vendors and organizers from across the nation, as well as the national headquarters of Youth for Christ monitored the GBGMT to see how the community reacted to the family "alternative" and to possibly start a trend of "Great Big Gospel Music Tents" in other state fairs throughout the country.
Amanda Storment, Vice President of Media Relations for the Kentucky State Fair says "we really have a lot of requests for a Christian Gospel tent. This particular tent is a plus because of all the different types of music...featured, from urban to gospel, contemporary Christian, Latin, bluegrass to rock bands, we think it will receive a lot of attention and draw from Fair goers. And the fact that it's catered by Jay's Cafeteria is another huge plus!" I was at the tent each day and I can echo that sentiment!
National artists Jeff Deyo (formerly of Sonicflood) and newcomers 38th Parallel were on hand. Local artists Fusion Worship Band, Fishers of Men, Stone Ridge, Win with Willard and others appeared and various church choirs from around Kentucky sang throughout the 11-day event.
I was there mainly in the early morning hours, so I didn't see as much activity as most people, but from what I saw and heard the tent was a big success.
Building on the success of Steven Curtis Chapman's "Live Out Loud" tour that hit 33 cities and over 130,000 people last spring, he heads out again this fall. On September 19 and 20, Chapman brings the tour to The Palace in downtown Louisville. This leg of the tour, larger in scope, kicked off in the jungles of Ecuador in early August and will continue to visit 24 cities in the U.S.
The spring leg, hitting markets such as Houston, Atlanta and Dallas, was truly an experience for all who saw the show. Besides sell-outs in seven cities, it had near-capacity crowds at every other stop, averaging nearly 4,000 per show each night. According to Steven's website, comments have been flowing in daily on the impact the tour has made on fans and the industry alike. I was at the Bloomington, Indiana date and was amazed at the show.
As I mentioned last month in LMN, helping to make the spring tour unlike any other were two guests - missionary Steve Saint and Waodani tribal member Mincaye. Saint is scheduled to appear again this fall and Mincaye is expected to again leave his jungle home to join the tour. The show will continue to share the story between Steve Saint and Mincaye through their own words and a 25-minute multi-media experience featuring "Beyond The Gates Of Splendor".
Adding an international element to the tour was its debut in the jungles of Ecuador, as Steven played three acoustic concerts in Quito, Nemompade and Shell, Ecuador during the first week in August. Special guests Two Car Garage, a two-man band made up of Will Franklin Chapman (drums) and Caleb Chapman (guitar), backed Chapman on these special South American dates. Two Car Garage will not be able to join Chapman (their father) for the U.S. dates due to scheduling conflicts (6th and 7th grade).
The Quito concert, for the people of Quito and for the Waodoni tribe, was held at a church in the city. Chapman then gave a concert in the Nemompade jungle, especially for the Waodoni tribe, as a special thank you to the tribe for making it possible for Mincaye to be away on the "Live Out Loud" tour this past spring. The concert is for the numerous missionaries based in that city acknowledging their outreaches throughout the region, which is the original base location of the 1956 martyrs.
Nichole Nordeman is slated to open again for Chapman for the fall leg. Nichole will be performing songs from her first two albums as well as new cuts from her upcoming release, Woven & Spun, which releases on the 24th.
It's been a very busy year for Chapman, who had been experiencing vocal problems at this time last September. Following the highly anticipated release of his twelfth album, Declaration, which debuted at number one on the Christian album sales chart and at # 14 on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart, he has appeared on CNN, CNN Headline News, has been featured in USA Today, Billboard, two music video premieres on the music homepage of WindowsMedia.com and has graced the covers of nine Christian magazines.
Wycliffe Bible Translators is confirmed as the official fall tour sponsor. The ministry tries to reach people in every nation through Bible translation in native languages.
As I mentioned last month, what makes the Louisville concert unique is that the fact that both shows are being taped for CD and DVD release. Chapman's family, as well as numerous Nashville industry types will likely be on hand for the Louisville show. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of a national CD release (OK maybe not "once-in-a-lifetime", Michael W. Smith recorded a CD here in July). If you are a fan of Christian music, you don't want to miss it.
At press time, tickets were still available for both nights. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets.