Religion

4th Questapalooza attracts big crowd

Cornhole is a common feature at church fall festivals.

"It's a good way to mingle and have a good time," says Rob McLeod, 41.

Jayson Barnes, 17, agreed, saying, "It doesn't get too competitive, so you can just have fun and have a conversation."

Quest Community Church's fall kickoff, Questapalooza, offered a cornhole tournament with a dozen games charted on an NCAA basketball tournament-style bracket.

In its fourth year, Questapalooza — far from your typical church fall festival — offered much more than games: There were extreme-sports demonstrations, fireworks and some of the biggest bands in Christian rock 'n' roll.

This year, the festival had some extra energy: The church's new 2,400-seat auditorium opened this weekend.

"It's amazing," McLeod, who was running the cornhole tournament, said of the auditorium, which would rival most theaters in Lexington. "We're thrilled with it."

The first three services in the new auditorium attracted 5,355 people Saturday night and Sunday. Questapalooza had about 8,500 paying customers, organizers said.

"There's such an electricity in this place," said pastor Pete Hise, who delivered a talk after the bands and before the fireworks. "We're so grateful for God's generosity."

The other big attraction was, of course, Third Day, one of the biggest bands in Christian rock. They topped a bill that included Jars of Clay and Group 1 Crew.

That lineup was good enough to attract far more than just Quest's burgeoning congregation and prospective members.

"I'll be here every year for the bands," said Whitney Rice, 26, a teaching student from Estill County.

She first came last year, when gospel star Kirk Franklin was the headliner. On Sunday afternoon, she was hanging out at the barricade in front of the stage, wearing her Third Day cap.

"This is wonderful," she said. "We need more places doing things like this, providing a great time in a safe, Christian environment."

Like any fall festival, part of the aim of Questapalooza is to attract new members to the church, and evidence of their success could be found in the four finalists for The Fame, Questapalooza's American Idol-like singing competition.

Two of the singers attended the church, and two hadn't heard of it until they were approached about the competition.

Aaronn Ralph, 18, a University of Kentucky freshman, said she was at a start-of-school event where The Fame had a booth, and "my boyfriend pushed me to try out."

Kelsey Harmon, 19, a UK student from Edgewood, was approached when she was out with some friends. "The church I go to at home is much more traditional," she said.

She has since come to Quest, known for multimedia, contemporary services with themes such as "A U2 Easter." "It's awesome," she said. "I think we'll be coming back."

Daniel Griffin, a member of the church, won the competition. One of the three judges invoked the American Idol-ism "pitchy" in one of her assessments.

Quest member Lindsay Roberts, who was in the kids' area with her 1-year-old daughter Sylvie, said Questapalooza is "the only thing people talk about," in the month leading up to the festival. "Everyone is very excited." Roberts said that one of the most attractive things about Quest is that it's friendly "You walk in and you're instantly greeted by 15 different people. And at the festival, they want to make sure everyone feels welcomed."

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