Music News & Reviews

Questapalooza mixes music, fellowship, baptism

One by one, the Rev. Pete Hise cradled his congregants in his right arm and leaned them back into the pool.

When they emerged, the people who were being baptized could see before them a crowd of people applauding, and beyond that a ferris wheel, spider ride, giant slide and midway with concessions such as funnel cake and popcorn.

They saw Questapalooza, the third annual city-outreach event by 3,000-member Quest Community Church. The one-day festival saw a lineup of popular Christian rock bands, including gospel music superstar Kirk Franklin, fireworks, carnival events, and those baptisms.

"It was going public," Mike Scott, 38, said of his decision to be baptized at the festival. "Somebody could see that and think that maybe it's something they should do."

The people being baptized were church members who had gone through pre-baptism counseling at the church and even recorded short video testimonies that were shown on video screens at each side of the festival main stage before they were dunked. They also pinned lists of their sins to a wooden cross to the left of the three baptismal tanks perched on a flatbed truck.

"You are no longer responsible for that," Hise said, referring to the cross where the transgressions were posted.

Robert Kesner, 29, who was baptized with his wife, Debbie, said he wanted to be baptized at Questapalooza for "other people to see and hear the message."

The Kesners started attending Quest last year, after moving to Lexington from Rochester, N.Y.

"I've never seen another church like this," Robert said.

That's sort of the idea behind the whole event, to give people a look at Quest in the form of a big party for the city. The first two Questapaloozas were the weekend after Labor Day. But this year, the event was moved to the holiday weekend to accommodate Franklin's touring schedule.

That put Questapalooza in competition with the University of Kentucky-University of Louisville football game.

Dan Robertson was wearing a "Big Blue Nation" T-shirt but said he was at Questapalooza chaperoning a youth group of 19 from Richmond's East Side Baptist Church, where he's the youth pastor. As a friend checked the score on his cell phone, Robertson said he was impressed with the level of the production.

"It's amazing, all the people in green shirts," he said, referring to the volunteers. "To get that many people to volunteer to serve is amazing. It feels like a family deal."

The volunteers had a variety of roles, from ferrying large bags of ice to serving as American Idol-ish judges.

At the Kidzapalooza tent, aspiring singers auditioned to perform with Savannah Montana, a pseudo Hannah Mo', on the Kidzapalooza stage. There was even a trio of judges, a la Randy, Paula and Simon, though Brent Mulberry's Simon wasn't trying to destroy little girls the way curmudgeonly Simon Cowell does on Idol.

"That song is usually like nails on a chalkboard," he said of Ella Goodpaster's rendition of Hannah Montana's Best of Both Worlds. " But you really brought it."

Goodpaster, 12, who goes to Quest, said Questapalooza reminded her of her youth group blown up to a much larger scale.

The event actually completed something of a Christian rock weekend in the Reynolds Road area, with Lexington Christian Academy staging a back-to-school bash Friday and Saturday that concluded with Christian pop stars Jars of Clay on Saturday night.

"That was exciting that they did that," Quest assistant pastor Justin McCarty said late Sunday afternoon. Surveying the festival site, he anticipated it would fill up as evening came, the UK game concluded, and Franklin took the stage.

Last year's event drew 6,000 people; last night's crowd count was 6,500.

As for next year, McCarty said the church waits to see where God leads them in terms of staging another event, but he hopes there will be a Questapalooza 4.

"As long as we get the green light, we'll do it," McCarty said. "But no matter what, we'll continue to keep our arms open to the city."

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