If you go
› What: Jfest
› Where: Camp Jordan, 323 Camp Jordan Parkway, East Ridge
› When: 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19
› Admission: $20 ages 12 and older
› For more information: jfest.com
Ted Gocke was at the first Jfest when it launched 20 years ago at Camp Jordan Arena. Several hundred folks turned out to see what the new Christian music festival that radio station J103 was launching was all about.
Over two decades, Jfest has grown to become the largest Christian music festival and longest-running in this region, says Gocke, now J103's morning show host, music director and promotions director. Last year's event drew nearly 8,000 visitors; its biggest year saw close to 10,000 pass through the gates.
"The music has become more diverse. Christian music has evolved and now there are all the different Christian genres: rap, hip-hop, rock, contemporary Christian," says Gocke. "But one thing hasn't changed about Jfest: the mission to evangelize and to give people the opportunity to sit down with their families and spend time together listening to a variety of music."
Jfest marks its 20th anniversary on Saturday, May 19. Gates open at 9:30 a.m., when the first of 10 Christian music acts takes the stage.
As has become tradition, Jfest will end the day with fireworks, but a double-dose extravaganza is planned this year.
"Last year was the first time in 19 years where we had a bad storm come in," says Gocke. "It sat on us before the headliner and fireworks. We had to end the show and we lost both of those. So the fireworks this year will be twice as long."
This year's headliners are Britt Nicole, whose current single is "Be the Change," and Tenth Avenue North, three-time Dove Award winner.
Gocke says organizers have tried to book Tenth Avenue North for years, but scheduling never worked out. The band's current single is "Control," which Gocke says has been the No. 1 song for several weeks in Christian music.
Tori Parris of Gadsden, Ala., will open Jfest. Performing the remainder of the day will be The Young Escape, Unspoken, The Color, Mallory Hope, Finding Favour and Calling Glory. Britt Nicole will come on about 6:15 p.m. and Tenth Avenue North about 7:45.
New this year is the addition of an after-party, says Gocke. Christian hip-hop artist Aaron Cole will entertain.
"Aaron is one of TobyMac's proteges and is on TobyMac's record label. Aaron will be onstage immediately after the fireworks," he says.
Also new this year: Vendors will accept cash.
"Normally, people have exchanged currency for J Bucks. This year, vendors will take cash. As a result of that, we've gotten more diverse vendors," says Gocke.
The early morning Run For God Jfest 5K is still part of the event, however this year the festival is partnering with Volunteers in Medicine for the run. VIM will be the race presenter and beneficiary.
Race registration starts at 7:30 a.m. The entry fee is $40, which includes a Jfest ticket.
For more information: jfest.com.