Christian music will return to Wilmore the last weekend in April, and the Ichthus Festival will return to Central Kentucky in June.
The new owners of the property off U.S. 68 in Wilmore once known as Ichthus Farm say they will present "The Redemption," a one-day concert event April 26 featuring Christian rockers Disciple as the headlining act.
The last full weekend in April was the traditional time for the Ichthus Festival before the event moved to June in 2006 following several bouts with early springtime severe weather.
The Ichthus Festival itself folded in December 2012 citing insurmountable financial problems. But Ichthus is set to return June 4 to 7 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The event has been announcing a lineup through its Facebook page (Facebook.com/ichthus) including Switchfoot, Needtobreathe, August Burns Red and Hawk Nelson, and is now selling tickets. Festival spokesman Tim Gerst said plans are to announce a new artist a day for the next two weeks.
Ichthus is returning under the auspices of Come Alive International, the Pennsylvania-based organization that presents the East and West Coast editions of The Creation Festival as well as several other Christian music festivals.
Starting in 1970, Ichthus was the oldest continually running contemporary Christian music festival in the country when it closed after its 43rd edition in 2012. Its creation actually preceded the development of contemporary Christian music as a genre. Ichthus had always been presented in Wilmore and had been at the property off U.S. 68 since 1998.
Joe Lycan, who bought the property with his wife, Cheryl, and renamed it Servant Heart Farm, said he believes the property is sacred ground and he wanted to return Christian music and ministry to it. He said the April 26 date was not a coincidence.
"I think it's going to be wonderful what happens out there," Lycan said last week.
Lycan said that the first concert at the farm — which will also include Neverclaim, Bright Gray and other acts to be named later — was a chance for them to get their feet wet in presenting events at the farm. He hopes to present another event in May.
Lycan is a geologist based in Williamson, W.Va., and started coming to the Ichthus Festival as a member of the band Sons of Thunder. In a previous interview, Lycan said he and his wife bought the property because, "The Lord put it on our heart that these grounds must be secured, so we started listening to God and praying."
Other options that had been discussed for the Ichthus property included developing it for residential or commercial use. But Lycan said he thought Wilmore had a legacy in the festival launched by Asbury Seminary professor Bob Lyon and some of his students, and he wanted to play a part in maintaining that.
The couple bought the property after it went into foreclosure.
The Lycans got the land, but Come Alive got the intellectual property, including the name Ichthus Festival, its website (Ichthus.org) and other Internet outlets such as its Facebook and Twitter presences.
The return of the festival was announced at last year's Winter Jam Christian music concert in Rupp Arena in Lexington, and later organizers announced the festival would be Sept. 26 to 28 at the Horse Park.
Festival director Bill Darpino said the group returned the event to June after consultation with local supporters suggested they reexamine their options.
"Fortunately the Horse Park had the first weekend in June open, and we think that will be a great time to be out there and kick off the summer," Darpino said.
The June dates will make for a busy month of music at the Horse Park. The 41st edition of the Festival of the Bluegrass will be there, where it has been presented for decades, the next weekend, June 12 to 15.
Ichthus will be presented in the same part of the park as the Bluegrass Festival, at the campground area, which Gerst said will provide much more room for RV parking than the Wilmore location had.
"We really like the accessibility of that location and that there are a lot of hotels and other accommodations right around there for people that don't want to camp out," Darpino said.
Asked about attendance, Darpino said he hopes Ichthus will draw 10,000 to 15,000 fans, which is what the event was getting in Wilmore before it closed.
"Our expectation," he said, "is we will build on the audience that's already there and make it a great event for Central Kentucky."