WILMORE — Jo McKenzie was out Saturday afternoon to see what the new neighbors were up to.
McKenzie lives off U.S. 68 in Wilmore, next to the property that for more than a decade was owned by Ichthus Ministries and hosted the Ichthus Festival, which drew crowds of as many as 20,000 people.
The last Ichthus was in 2012, and the property was bought by West Virginians Joe and Cheryl Lycan after the Ichthus organization folded, citing insurmountable financial problems.
On Saturday afternoon, the festival site, which the Lycans renamed Servant Heart Farm, hosted The Redemption, a one-day concert event that the Lycans say will be the start of a new era of faith and family events on the property.
"I'm glad to be their neighbor," McKenzie said as she watched the kids in her family play while bands had sound checks. "I'm a follower of Jesus, and I'm for anything that honors and glorifies him."
The crowd for Saturday's event featuring Christian rockers from the band Disciple was far from Ichthus in number. A crowd of a couple dozen at the announced start time of 4 p.m. grew to more than 100 at sunset when the main lineup of bands took the stage led by up-and-comers Brightgray.
Lycan and many in attendance said crowd size was not the most important thing for the event.
"I'd like to see 3,000 here, but we may not see 300," Lycan said Saturday afternoon. "I believe God will get the people who need to be here, here."
Johnny Strange, youth pastor at Wilmore United Methodist Church, said, "Sometimes it takes a small seed to watch a great tree grow. Joe and Cheryl have a heart to do great things for this community."
The church operated The Redemption's only food concession stand.
Lycan acknowledged that the event had limited publicity, and he said it suffers from public confusion over the dissolution and status of the Ichthus Festival.
The Lycans and Servant Heart Farm have no association with Ichthus. The festival name was bought by the Pennsylvania-based company that presents the Creation Festivals in Pennsylvania and Washington State. A planned relaunch of Ichthus at the Kentucky Horse Park was canceled this month when it became clear that school snow make-up days were hurting potential attendance at the event, scheduled for June 4 to 7. Ichthus is now scheduled to relaunch in July 2015.
The Redemption also conflicted with Asbury University's Highbridge Film Festival, one of the biggest on-campus events of the year.
Many in attendance at The Redemption late in the afternoon said they had met Lycan and were impressed by what he was trying to do with the Ichthus property.
"You only have to talk to Joe for a few minutes to know he is very personable and wants to continue ministry on this site that has meant so much to so many people," said Beth Wenburg, whose husband, Ryan, is a student at Asbury Seminary.
Her three kids and many others filled in the open space in front of the stage playing with footballs, Frisbees and even a red Radio Flyer wagon, giving the event a church-picnic feel.
Broadcasting the event south was a crew from Campbellsville University radio station WLCU.
"We do a lot of live remotes, but this is our first concert event," student Hannah Sadler said. "It's a great experience."
One thing notably absent from the event was stormy weather. Ichthus had its share of sunny and 75 days, but it was noted for some bouts of severe weather, and the last time the event was held in late April, it snowed on the final Saturday.
This Saturday was everything the organizers and crowd could hope for, with a slightly muted sun and highs of 70 degrees.
"That was him," Lycan said, pointing skyward, "and he really came through."