WILMORE — The Ichthus Festival got started a day early this year, but the hillside in the amphitheater at Ichthus Farm made it look like Friday night as locals and out-of-towners gathered for the event's first-ever community night.
"It gives people a chance to see what Ichthus is all about," said Karen Mills of London, who has attended the entire festival before but was only taking in community night this year because of her schedule.
Community night attendees got a pretty sweet deal in concert terms: Two of Christian rock's top acts, TobyMac and Newsboys, for $20. And people who bought tickets before May 31 paid only $10.
"It had every potential for us to lose our shirts, when you compare the cost of bringing these guys in, to the bargain basement price we were charging," Ichthus Ministries executive director Jeff James said Wednesday evening as fans filed in to the festival site. "But for this being the first year, it's going great."
Festival organizers said 3,000 people bought tickets for the community night concert as of last week, and walk-up sales were brisk at the box office, one of the few areas covered by shade. The number of walk-up ticket buyers was not available at press time.
People who had bought weekend passes for the festival also were admitted to community night. On Wednesday afternoon, they were pitching tents and preparing for a lineup of Christian rock luminaries including Switchfoot and Skillet.
And they were all for adding an extra night to the 41st edition of the oldest Christian pop music festival.
"It makes it more like camp," said Taylor Dooley, 15, who was psyched to experience her first mosh pit at one of the metal concerts.
Spencer Dorman, 21, an Ichthus first-timer from Somerset, said, "I'm going to have a mean sunburn by Saturday."
Of course, the four-day run might be the hardest on the youth leaders who have to herd kids all weekend.
Jeff Walker, the youth leader at Oasis Community Church, which meets at Lexington Christian Academy, said he was feeling wonderful coming into the festival, but added, "Ask me how I'm feeling again on Saturday."