Take a back road

MOUNT UNION – A growing line of cars kicked up dust as they turned carefully onto the dirt road entrance leading to Agape Farm in Mount Union.

Drivers were greeted immediately by a lighthearted woman who walked up to each window to greet visitors and hand out tickets.

“Are you pumped?” she asked enthusiastically.

One after another, the cars made their way past sprawling fields and pastures filled with thousands of camp sites, featuring anything from standard tents and RVs to more creative make-shift showers and shelters fashioned out of horse trailers.

The 35th Annual Creation Festival was under way, and thousands of people had already traveled from all over the northeast to be there – the rest were on their way. Among them was a group of 30 youth and adults from Central Pennsylvania Youth Ministries of Juniata County and FX Cafe.

Derek Beitz, of Mifflintown, said it was his first year at the festival. By Thursday morning, he explained the experience so far as “loud” and “moving.”

“I don’t think you can expect all this,” before you come, he said, looking out over the farm. “It’s really awesome.”

While Beitz described his first days there, others gathered at the group’s picnic table for a card game. Several said they were looking forward to upcoming concerts from Skillet and Chris Tomlin and enjoyed a dance party with Family Force 5 the night before.

Amber Knouse, of Richfield, said the dance parties are her favorite part of the festival. Despite sweltering heat and elbow-to-elbow audiences, she said the experience is what keeps her coming back. This was Knouse’s fourth time at the festival.

“It’s really fun with all the bands,” she said.

Compared to last year, Faith Forrey, of McAlisterville, said Creation 2013 was already “a lot better … a lot crazier.”

By “crazier,” she referred to new experiences, meeting new people and bonding with the friends she came with.

But church leader Matt Werner, of Centre, Juniata County, said the camping and concerts are accompanied by a deeper purpose – Creation changes lives.

“Last year, three kids ended up making a serious commitment to Christ,” he said.

Even though Creation typically attracts tens of thousands of attendees each year, volunteer youth leader Justin Berkheimer said teenagers don’t always come to the event expecting to be moved closer to God. Some, he said, are just in it for the bands and activities – at least in the beginning.

“There’s something about the speakers here … they know how to hit them,” he said.

Berkheimer, who has been attending the festival for about eight years, said those who speak at the event seem to know exactly what to say to reach people whose hearts are not in the right place.

“You can feel the Lord move in the place,” Beitz said.

The festival continues through tonight with performances from Petra, for KING & COUNTRY, Aaron Shust, Plumb and Skillet. Tony Nolan is scheduled to speak. The festival will end with a fireworks display beginning around 11:15 p.m.

For more information, visit www.creationfest.com/ne.