MOUNT VERNON — A cold, drenching rain could not dampen the spirits of the crowds of Christian music fans who gathered on the campus of Mount Vernon Nazarene University on Saturday for Sonfest, a daylong event featuring concerts performed by recording artists from all over North America.
Youth Pastor Jimmy Rohrbacher of North Park Church of Christ in Columbus brought a van full of young people to the festival, most of whom were huddled together under blankets and an umbrella to watch the music performed on two stages.
“It’s enhanced the experience,” joked Rohrbacher of the stormy weather. He said he brought members of his youth group for the first time this year, to enjoy the variety of music, and share a unique experience.
“I just want them to experience a little bit of worship, hear some different bands, and have fun with a bunch of other people,” Rohrbacher said.
Many local youths and families, were mixed into the large crowds as well. A group of Mount Vernon girls said they came to the festival together to hear and meet the artists. Sarah Deakins, 18, said she and her friends had met some of the bands who performed, and were impressed at how accessible the musicians — national recording artists among them — were during the event.
“They are really cool people,” said Deakins after meeting Skyhawk with her friends.
“All of these bands are amazing, and they’ve been so fun to talk to,” said Deakins’ 16-year-old sister, Allissa.
Nick Sayre and Aaron Troyer, both Ohio natives and members of the band Come Wind, said being accessible is important to their mission of reaching people with their music.
“We’re about being human beings first, and a band second,” said Troyer.
Sayre said young people had been approaching the band members to talk after their concert. “However we can encourage them, we want to do that,” he said.
Dave Love, of the Canadian band Manic Drive, said the crowd at Sonfest is one of the band’s favorites.
“They tell us how much the music means to them,” said Love, whose group is known for adding a little comedy to their musical sets. “We definitely try to make it as positive as we possibly can — and fun.”
MVNU staff member Jodi Bryant, who worked alongside event organizer Holly Bibler, said the crowds at this year’s festival were overwhelmingly positive, despite the uncomfortable weather.
“I haven’t heard anybody complaining,” Bryant said. “They’re all having fun.”
Jessica McKeehan, 16, of Fredericktown said she was especially excited to see Fireflight, a popular band from Orlando, Fla. McKeehan said at a festival with so many male bands, it was great to see some women making music as well.
The day filled with concerts led up to the final two shows performed by Grammy-nominated group Hawk Nelson, and popular band Thousand Foot Crutch. While the rain grew heavier and the temperature dropped, the crowd stayed on its feet cheering and singing along.
Jason Dunn, lead singer of Hawk Nelson, said the enthusiastic crowd made his job a lot of fun. Dunn said he and his bandmates try to make music that will reach today’s young people with the rock music they crave with a positive message.
“As a kid growing up in a Christian family, I’d hide like Nirvana under my bed so my parents wouldn’t find it,” he said smiling. “We still loved the music our parents wouldn’t let us listen to so we thought we’d save kids the hassle and make music they can love, and their parents will like too.”