Thursday, August 12 was Day One of the 2010 Unity Christian Music Festival, held at Heritage Landing in Muskegon, Michigan. My husband and I attended Day One and Day Two of the Unity Festival; this was our first year to attend, and we both enjoyed it very much. My review for Day One is as follows.
The weather was very hot and humid, as it has been throughout this summer, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of those attending the Unity Festival. People were lining up outside the gate in the early morning hours. In spite of that, however, we really did not have as huge of a line ahead of us as I thought we would when we arrived at the venue around 3 p.m., an hour before the gates opened. We were fortunate to be able to park in a small parking lot right across the street from Heritage Landing; the cost was five dollars. There was at least one other, very large parking lot just north of the Landing available at the same price, as well as on-street parking for free.
Once the gates opened at 4 p.m. it did not take long for people to have their bags checked (no glass containers were allowed) and tickets taken. We were able to find a place to set up our chairs directly in front of the soundstage and fairly close to the main stage, which I was happy about. The volunteers working the festival were all very courteous and helpful in answering questions; everything was well-organized and handled in an orderly fashion.
There were several food vendors selling their wares, including Pizza Hut and Subway, and a local grocery chain, Plumb’s, had a large food tent and a couple of smaller ones set up in different areas of the venue. They were the most affordable, with the most expensive items being two-dollar sandwiches; everything else, from chips to pop, lemonade or water, to cookies and veggies, were fifty cents to a dollar apiece.
My husband and I decided we would have our supper right away, and we sat near the Plumb’s food tent to eat. Unfortunately, this was at the same time the Unity Choir, led by worship leader Joel Weldon, was starting the festival off, so we did not participate in the opening portion. They sounded great, however, and many in the audience joined them in singing praise to God, setting the festival off on a high note.
A friend of mine met us as we were finishing our meal, and she accompanied us to the Unity X-Change tent for a seminar by author Wendi English. Wendi co-wrote the book Wild Child, Waiting Mom with her mother Karilee Hayden. This book chronicles Wendi’s story of rebelling against the Christian faith she was raised in and the toll it took on both her and her family. Her mother Karilee shares in the book from her and her husband’s perspectives as they dealt with the drama created by Wendi’s behavior, and Wendi wrote from the perspective she saw things from at the time. After about twenty years of living on the wild side, Wendi finally “came home” to her Heavenly Father’s love and found the healing and fulfillment she had been searching for. Her story gives hope to those of us who find ourselves dealing with such difficult circumstances with our own children. Wendi is founder of Wild Child Ministries and is currently working on her Master’s in counseling. Her passion is to work with troubled teens and their parents.
After listening to Wendi’s presentation, we made our way back to the main stage area, where the Canadian band downhere was finishing up their set. We heard the final strains of their hit “Here I Am,” and after some short banter they launched into their final song, “Last Amen.” This song is quite unique and vocally theatrical in its style, with shades of Queen and a Latin influence mixed in with pop. They did a fine job and were much appreciated by the crowd.
After downhere came the Philadelphia-based band Reilly, bringing an edgy, pop/rock feel infused with some great fiddle playing by husband and wife members Dan and Noele Huie. I loved the way those two “dueled” on stage with their instruments, and during one song later in the set it was the two of them “dueling” with the guitarists in the band. The band was very high energy, and very tight in their performance. I would definitely go see Reilly perform again.
Britt Nicole, a young woman who is fairly new to the contemporary Christian scene, was next in the lineup. Britt has a pop/rock sound that is catchy and upbeat, and she is very engaging as a performer. I was impressed most of all, though, with her heartfelt sharing of her struggles with her parents’ divorce when she was 17, and also with how she so boldly encouraged those in the audience to not be afraid to stand and follow the dreams that God put in their hearts. She shared what God had impressed upon her through Scripture in 1 Chronicles 22:13—“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” She also shared the passage in Jeremiah 29:11, ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ “
She continued, throughout her performance, to impress upon the audience that no matter how young or old one might be, God can and will use us and bring dreams to fruition, if we are willing to allow Him to work in us and through us. We do not have to let others discourage us with their words and negative attitudes.
Some of the songs Britt performed included “Set the World on Fire,” “Walk on the Water,” “Feel the Light,” “Freedom,” and her latest, “The Lost Get Found.”
All of these talented and inspiring performers were warming up the crowd for the main attraction of the night, and the audience was pumped and ready for the appearance of Atlanta rockers Third Day. This veteran Christian band has been together for 18 years, and they do know how to put on a great show. They also know how to engage the fans, and to bring the audience into a spirit of worship to God. They are one of the bands who are most requested to play at the Unity festival.
Third Day kicked off their set with “Slow Down,” a cut from their Revelation release, then segued into the popular worship anthem “Sing a Song,” followed by “Call My Name.” The audience (including yours truly) was singing along enthusiastically the whole time. Mac Powell, Third Day’s lead singer, came up close and interacted with the fans, which the crowd went wild for. He definitely knows how to connect with the fans.
Other songs performed by Third Day included “Thief” from their debut album, “Born Again” (on which Fireflight lead vocalist Dawn Michelle joined Mac in a duet), “I’ve Always Loved You” (Mac was joined by new artist Trevor Morgan on harmonies), and “Cry Out to Jesus.” Trevor also was given opportunity to perform solo, and he was very good.
One of the highlights of Third Day’s set, for me, was their leading the audience in singing the classic praise and worship anthem “God of Wonders.” It was truly an awesome moment to be singing along with thousands of others, hands raised in the air, to the Lord. This song is one of my all-time favorites, and one of Third Day’s best offerings.
Third Day also performed two new songs from their upcoming album, which will be released in October (just in time for my birthday!). I will definitely be looking forward to adding that to my Third Day collection!
We left as Third Day was doing an encore, as we did not want to get stuck in traffic. It was a great ending to Day One of the Unity Christian Music Festival, and whet my anticipation of what was to come on Day Two.
Resources: First-hand account of Day One happenings at 2010 Unity Christian Music Festival. Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version.