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Musicians, artists to gather for PraiseFest this weekend

PLUM CITY--Two summers ago, around 100 Christian music fans gathered at a church campground for a day of praise, worship and fellowship.

What began as an inspiration for a Plum City man has now grown into PraiseFest 2006. Ray Burg said Wednesday he mainly lined up musicians and artists he knew in organizing the original 2004 event on the grounds of Bible Center Church, across from Wieser Concrete headquarters. There were a variety of music styles represented by fewer than a dozen groups, including Christian rock, country and mellow adult, with people of various ages and backgrounds attending.

"I'd been at some Christian music festivals," Burg said about his idea for a local event, mentioning Light Fest in Oshkosh and Sonshine Fest in Willmar, Minn. "It's just that the artists (here) weren't as well known."

A family reunion obligation prevented him from repeating the gathering last year, he said, but it's returning this weekend at a new location, the John and Kay Luedtke property, approximately a quarter mile south of Hwy. 10 on CTH CC along the Towns of Salem and Union border. This time, most of the performing groups are from throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin, and many have been recruited on the computer internet.

"We want a real open, family-type event," he said, noting admission to all is free.

Each band will be given an hour to work with, he said. Open microphone time will be given, too, for those with shorter presentations, musical or testimonial.

Organizers invite campers for this Friday and Saturday nights, though others wishing to come only part of the weekend are welcome, Burg said. The camping will be somewhat primitive, without electricity or plumbing, but porta-potties have been arranged. Grills and campfires will also be available; campers may bring their own food or buy uncooked campfire/grill cookable food on-site.

They're advised to arrive equipped with basics such as chairs, shade umbrellas, mosquito repellant, bottled water and sunscreen, he said. While there will be some tent space, most activities will be at the mercy of the elements.

"We're hoping the Lord shines down on us," he said.

The musical groups aren't charging for their participation, but some will sell CDs and the like from tables, Burg said. T-shirts and other items will be sold, along with Christian art work (property co-owner Kay Luedtke will offer pottery she makes, for example). Any proceeds from the event will go toward a local food charity.

Friday's lineup shows: 6 p.m., worship with Todd and Kay; 7 p.m., Nate Keyes, Platteville; 8 p.m., Chad Hell, East Troy; 9 p.m., Julia Hare, Racine; 10 p.m., Jim Anthony, Minneapolis.

Saturday's schedule is: 9 a.m., open mic (Chachi Persad, Miami, Heather Hines, Ellsworth, Erin Blegen, Spring Valley, Toni Burkman, Chippewa Falls); 10 a.m., Eklesia, Plum City; 11 a.m., Chris Palmer, Luck; noon, open mic; 1 p.m., Eddie Bieber, Marinette; 2 p.m., Ray French, St. Paul; 3 p.m., Mark Kenney, Reynoldsburg, Ohio; 4 p.m., Nichole Peper, New Richmond; 5 p.m., open mic; 6 p.m., PS 150, Eau Claire; 7 p.m., Light Switch, Wilson; 8 p.m., South Owen, Madison; 9 p.m., Fuller Still, Minneapolis; 10 p.m., praise and worship.

A 10 a.m. service on Sunday will have Burg's father, Gerald, giving his testimony, along with French, as well as music.

"It will be a light service," the organizer said.

No formal offerings are to be taken and the event has no sponsors, he said. The Luedtkes are donating their land and building a stage. Brosi Signs of Plum City has donated posters, handouts and signs. Living Waters Christian Fellowship of Ellsworth is paying for the porta-potties. The Keyes band is providing some equipment. Burg's wife, Michele, is serving as photographer.