by KRIS DEYOUNG
Loud music, famous bands, world-renowned speakers, thousands of fans and, most importantly, elephant ears are all part of this year’s Big Ticket Festival, which took place at Allegan County Fairgrounds June 14-16.
The Big Ticket Festival is one of the largest Christian music festivals in the state of Michigan. It is a ministry run by the nonprofit Free Spirit Ministries and sponsored by many different entities including Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids. Each year upwards of 8,000 people come out each day for this family event, which truly has something for everyone.
Each year some of the biggest names in Christian music hit one of three stages, impressing the crowds with their high energy and faith-filled performances. This year over 90 different artists performed, including hit artists such as Newsboys, Chris Tomlin, Brandon Heath, Sidewalk Prophets, Shane and Shane, and many more.
While taking in all the shows, families are also drawn to the multitude of other events and opportunities. Whether it is watching the Strongman team bend metal bars around their necks and rip phonebooks in half, or checking out the motocross dirt bikes defy gravity as they float back flips high above the crowd, it is three days of nonstop entertainment. There is even a special place for the younger kids (and the occasional adult) in the Kid Zone, which has every inflatable game you can imagine.
At the heart of the festival are the ministries that seek to serve others, help those in need, and share the message of their faith. From toddlers to senior citizens, and everyone in between, the grounds are sprinkled with people who want to make a difference.
The ministry of Operation Christmas Child, for example, allows festival fans to help stuff boxes filled with gifts and basic necessities to benefit kids in need around Christmas time. Many walk through the various tents like this one to see how they can play a part in helping someone in some way. It is love in action—truly a festival of fun, family, and a higher calling.
“I learned that there is way more to a person than what meets the eye,” commented Beyond The Rock student producer Lynsey Bettig.
This year Rockford High School (RHS) students, like Bettig, had the opportunity to run a large part of the video production component for the weekend. Twenty-four students participated in various shifts for all three days of the event. RHS students could be seen running all over the festival grounds with cameras, boom microphones, and the occasional slushy in hand.
“The experience was a rush of everything—excitement of meeting the artists one minute, and the stress of editing twenty minutes down to three the next,” commented graduate Josh Waldvogel. “We’d have five people out on shoot, another three editing, and I would be standing there on the phone, calling managers, thinking, ‘This is the best kind of stress in the world’—reassurance of my film career path.”
Students played multiple roles all weekend from camera operators, producers, editors, on-camera talent, to artist liaisons, like Waldvogel, setting up the artist interviews. Some interviews were planned far in advanced with plenty of edit time, and at other times the group might receive a phone call that would be to the effect of, “Newsboys said they can do an interview, but you have to get here in 10 minutes!” In those moments, the crew assembled like the Avengers, ready to meet the challenge.
Kayla Tykosky, who is headed to college this fall for broadcasting, remarked, “It helped prepare us for what some of us might be up against in this career path. It was fun and challenging all at the same time.”
Students like Aaron “Princess” Bainbridge and Matt Mergener appreciated not just going backstage and meeting the artists, but seeing what they were like as “real people.”
Event organizer, and 1998 Rockford graduate, Andrew Arthur Spanding was very pleased with Rockford’s team. “I was so impressed with the professionalism in how the Rockford students conducted themselves,” Spanding said. “Not only did they get a great experience, but they gave our organization valuable videos to help us connect with our attendees.”
In the end, it was a fantastic three days for everyone. Students participated in a professional venue in the video industry working under high expectations and fast deadlines. The kids got to meet and get pictures with artists that populate many of their iPods. Students also took part in a great opportunity to volunteer—another reminder to the importance of serving others and giving back.
One of the lead student producers, Samantha Ericksen, summed up the team’s sentiments well. “I was honored to have the opportunity to celebrate music, spirituality and community,” she said, “on top of learning about the art of video production.”
As the student’s instructor, I was again blown away by such an incredible crew of kids. They rose to the challenge, exceeded the expectations, and had a blast while doing it. This was a group of hardworking, kind and fun people. It was a contagious energy all weekend, and a great memory for the books.
And I must say… although questionably priced, the elephant ears were delicious.
For more information on the Big Ticket Festival visit bigticketfestival.com. For more information on Rockford High School’s Beyond The Rock team as well as links to their work from the festival, visit their Facebook page at Beyond The Rock.