The success of the first OneFest, both on and off the Christian music event’s stage, has inspired organizers to return for a second year.
Audiences can enjoy an expanded lineup of chart-topping musical artists, educational opportunities, children’s activities and the Christian message Friday through Sunday at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls.
The festival has expanded from two to three days this year and will feature headliners Newsboys, Francesca Battistelli and Building 429 on Saturday; and Carrollton, TRU-SERVA and 513FREE on Friday.
Festival founder Heather Flashinski said she and the other volunteers who present OneFest were pleased with first event. That was true of the musical entertainment, including headliners Tenth Avenue North, Mandisa and Citizen Way. It also was true as far as the crowd numbers, with an estimated attendance of 2,200, a number they hope grows to about 5,000 this year. On top of that, they were delighted with the stories of how the Christian message was shared.
“We were pleasantly surprised with the number of people that came and, beyond that, the stories of God reaching out to people to really touching their hearts and things that they felt and wanted to do when they went back to their own churches and communities,” Flashinski said. “The stories afterwards were what motivated us to keep doing this and want to bring it back.”
Leading the list of headliners on Saturday night is Newsboys.
“They have had some amazing traction in the last few years,” Flashinski said.
Among their credits is their appearance in the “God’s Not Dead” films.
“They did three movies addressing different scenarios of the struggle with Christianity kind of losing ground a little bit in the U.S. and how we can encourage the positivity of Christianity,” she said. “Those movies have brought them further and further in their music careers, and they’re doing amazing.”
Among the Newsboys songs Flashinski especially enjoys are “We Believe” — “that basically takes the Creed or the beliefs and puts it to music and it’s beautiful” — and “The Cross Has the Final Word,” one that is especially popular around Easter time.
“Of course, ‘God’s Not Dead’ (the song) is a really peppy rock one, and so that is the one the people really jump at and enjoy as well,” she said.
Battistelli also is a major star on the Christian music scene.
“She does a lot of inspiring songs about self worth and knowing God loves you,” Flashinski said. “One of the ones that she has out right now is ‘The Breakup Song.’ It talks about just breaking up with fear and not worrying about fear anymore and being confident.”
Building 429, also on Saturday’s bill, is more of a rock band, Flashinski said, citing “Unashamed” as one of their fans’ favorites.
Besides the Saturday lineup of national acts, OneFest has added a second day of music on Friday.
“We wanted to bring in some more regional acts and up and coming national acts,” she said.
Those bands include nationally known headliner Carrollton; Boiling Point, a hard rock band from Minnesota; TRU-SERVA, a rapper also from Minnesota; A Day Awaits, an alternative rock band from Pennsylvania; and the regional band 513FREE.
For still more music on Saturday night, check out the side stage, whose lineup will be headlined by Justin Warren from Nashville, Tenn., Flashinski said.
The diversity of genres should be no surprise to anyone who follows Christian music — or attended the first OneFest.
“It’s really about the lyrics and what it says versus what type of music it is,” Flashinski said. “And so that way if you like rap and you want to still listen to Christian lyrics, there are rap artists out there that do just Christian lyrics.”
All the bands of different genres at the festival share a family-oriented approach to lyrics.
“They’re family safe lyrics, and you can always trust what you’re listening to if you come to the festival and if you listen to Christian,” she said.
Some of the festival’s other presentations can be found in the Thrivent Education Building. Flashinski mentioned some of the opportunities on Saturday, listing presentations that range from serious to comedic:
• Deborah Tackmann will deliver an anti-bullying message as part of the Dignity Revolution program.
• AJ the Illusionist presents comic physical illusions along with communicating about the love of God.
• A military veteran will talk about how his faith helps him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
• Other sessions will be offered on generosity and giving back, money management and helping kids learn how to be generous.
• Saturday will end with an acoustic worship service. At that service, Flashinski said, “People can just come in and relax and be there in the moment after Newsboys are done — if they don’t want to rush out to their cars right away.”
An exhibitor building on the grounds includes information about various ministries. “And so if people are there looking for other ways to give generously or to be part of more hands and feet of Jesus, we’ll have that exhibitor building,” she said.
As the mother of two children, ages 8 and 11, Flashinski said it also was important that OneFest has varied children’s activities on the ground so the younger festgoers don’t get bored waiting between musical acts.
The “most exciting part” of OneFest, Flashinski said, is that it came about through efforts of people who came from diverse Christian backgrounds.
“When we started a couple of years ago forming the organization, all of us who cam to the table all came from different (Christian) faith backgrounds,” she said. “So we have Catholic, Baptist, nondenominational, Bible church, Lutheran, across the board. And we all believe in Jesus Christ, and we want the message to be portrayed that we’re all coming together as one” – an emphasis that suggests the genesis of OneFest’s name.