Free Christian music festival set for July 28Written by David Yonke Editor, ToledoFAVS.com | | David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com
Exclaim!, one of the largest Christian music festivals in Northwest Ohio, has been growing each year in every way except one: ticket price. The first Exclaim! in 2010 was free and it’s been that way ever since.
Now in its fourth year, the festival set for July 28 will feature music by national artists Jeremy Camp, Hawk Nelson, and the Jacob and Matthew Band and Ohio singer Amanda Vernon.
Camp, who performs at 5 p.m. July 28, has had 32 No. 1 songs on the Christian music charts and won five Dove Awards, while Hawk Nelson, a Canadian trio that will perform at 3:30 p.m., was voted Favorite New Artist by readers of CCM Magazine in 2006.
The festival will also offer an array of family-friendly activities, including crafts and inflatable games for kids, an outreach tent to raise awareness about homeless teens, and a magic show by the Rev. Mark Davis.
Davis, pastor of St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Bowling Green, has been performing magic tricks since childhood and is known for telling stories and adding spiritual epilogues to his act. He said magic is an art form that can be used to teach about God.
“Are we comfortable with the experience of not knowing?” Davis asked. “If we are really uncomfortable with mystery, then how in the world are we going to have a relationship with a God who is so much greater than us?”
Exclaim! will have plenty of concession stands offering food and beverages for purchase, but visitors are welcome to bring a picnic lunch.
“We don’t want people stressing out [over money]. We do everything we can to keep this event free so people who can’t afford to come can still be there,” said Michael Puppos, one of the founders of Exclaim! and the pastoral associate for music and liturgy at Blessed John XXIII Parish in Perrysburg.
To help offset expenses, which totaled $92,000 this year, organizers will ask for donations, he added.
Besides the free admission, Exclaim! also differs from most festivals in the way it balances a Catholic identity with an intentionally broad, ecumenical appeal.
“It’s organized by Catholics and it maintains a Catholic identity for people who want to experience those forms of prayer and worship,” Puppos said. “But if you’re not Catholic, there are lots of activities. We want to make everyone feel at home.”
The Catholic imprint will include a prayer tent, priests hearing confessions and a “Stump the Priest” contest with the Rev. Jeff McBeth and the Rev. Jeff Walker.
Bishop Leonard Blair, leader of the 318,000-member Toledo Catholic Diocese, will close the day with an outdoor Mass at 7 p.m., concelebrated by area priests.
“I think Exclaim! is a great idea,” Blair said. “It’s family-friendly, and brings together a diversity of people who want to praise God through music. It’s also an occasion for the celebration of an outdoor Mass, and other opportunities for prayer and faith enrichment. I’m grateful to those who organize Exclaim! and those who support it, I hope will continue be an annual event.”
Each year since Exclaim! was founded, organizers have made a point of shining a light on a social issue in the Toledo area.
“We want it to be more than a concert,” Puppos said. “We want it to be something that makes a difference in the community.”
Ken Leslie, founder of Tent City and 1Matters, is heading up this year’s focus on raising awareness and providing help for teenagers who are homeless.
“Exclaim! has been exceptional at bringing people together and helping them feel the word of God,” Leslie said. “This year they’re taking it a step further. They are helping students feel the actions of Jesus Christ.”
In his talks to local school assemblies, Leslie discovered that homeless students are often too embarrassed or ashamed to seek help.
Students from throughout the Toledo area have formed a group called “Within” that aims to get teenagers to look within themselves, as well as within their communities, for ways to help the needy.
They learn to spot signs of homelessness in their fellow students, such as infrequent showers or someone carrying a large gym bag full of clothes when they’re not on a sports team, Leslie said.
When homeless teens hear from others who were in their predicament, and when they see that people genuinely want to help, they are more likely to step up and get assistance, Leslie said.
Exclaim! 2013 is 2-9 p.m. July 28 at the Monsignor Schmit CYO Athletic Complex, 555 S. Holland-Sylvania Road, Toledo. Parking is free. If the lot is full, shuttle buses will provide transportation to the festival but organizers advise everyone to come to the CYO complex first.
More information is available online at www.ExclaimToledo.org or by calling (419) 874-6502.
David Yonke is the editor and community manager of Toledo Faith & Values (ToledoFAVS.com), a website that provides in-depth, nonsectarian news coverage of religion, faith and spirituality in the Toledo area.