It's been eight years since music has filled the open field at 9520 Harrodsburg Road in Wilmore on the last weekend in April. But that will change this year.
This weekend had long been the traditional time for the Ichthus Festival — until 2006, when severe thunderstorms and snow sent the event in search of better weather in June.
A lot has happened since then: The festival hit financial rough waters and closed late in 2012. The festival name and related properties were purchased by the Pennsylvania-based presenters of the Creation Festivals, and a revival of Ichthus at the Kentucky Horse Park was planned for early June — but that has been pushed back to 2015 as school make-up days encroached on the festival dates.
But the new owners of the old festival site are set to rock Saturday.
"The goal is to let people know that Servant Heart farm is a place where the praises of God will be continual," says Joe Lycan, a West Virginia geologist who bought the property with his wife, Cheryl, last year after it went into foreclosure. "We just want to invite God's people to those grounds and enjoy a worship concert on those grounds again."
Lycan emphasizes that he and his organization have no affiliation with the Ichthus Festival or organization, and his is an entirely new effort. But he says he does have an enduring respect for what he thinks Ichthus was: a homegrown Christian music event with ministry at its core. Lycan attended for several years and performed with the band Sons of Thunder.
For Saturday's event, he has booked an act familiar to Christian rock fans: Disciple, led by Central Kentucky resident Kevin Young.
"He is honored to be the first band to play at Servant Heart Farm, and he has bent over backwards to facilitate ministry," Lycan says. "I love his band and I love his heart."
Filling out the bill are up-and-coming national acts TheNeverclaim and BrightGray, a lineup of regional acts that will open the afternoon and speaker Lonnie Riley.
"If we have any success with this event, we're going to have frequent events throughout the summer; we can have more concerts and more opportunity for ministry," Lycan says.
But he acknowledges that it has been challenging to get the word out about what is happening. Many people, he says, don't know what is going on or think Lycan's group is part of Ichthus, a name that has taken a public-relations beating the past few years.
"We just need to get the idea out there that the grounds are secured, ministry will continue, and concerts are just one thing we're going to do there," Lycan says.
With 111 acres available, he says, Servant Heart is interested in partnering "with groups that share our values" to present events, noting they will be reviving a bluegrass music event that took place at the property for a few years. He has found partners to help present Saturday's event, including Asbury Seminary, which is where Ichthus started in 1970.
"The seminary has got on board, and they are in full stride helping us," Lycan says. "And Campbellsville University has come on board to help us doing video and a live remote broadcast."
While he says repeatedly that his group is not connected to Ichthus, Lycan says there is a desire to connect to that history, including the choice of weekend to reopen the festival site.
"We wanted to do it on that weekend that had been the original festival," he says. "We were disappointed with the demise of the Ichthus Festival because we had served there for years. We, like many other people who have a heart for what God's doing, want to invite people to come back to the grounds and worship God."