First staged more than 20 years ago, this week’s festival at Muskegon’s Heritage Landing boasts sets by Casting Crowns, We the Kingdom, For King and Country and more. Details and a schedule at Local Spins.
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Unity Christian Music Festival director Kevin Newton says this week’s four-day event might surprise a first-time visitor.
“The music is excellent, the festival is family-friendly and offers a safe atmosphere,” Newton says of the annual non-profit gathering which has grown over its 22 years.
With a lineup featuring some of the nation’s top Christian music artists in a variety of styles – and lots of amenities – Unity this year figures to top 50,000 spectators. That would represent a return to pre-pandemic attendance levels.
It’s the largest annual event in Muskegon and the biggest Christian music festival in Michigan.
Perhaps the best-known music act is Saturday’s headliner For King & Country. The inspirational pop-rock act sold out Van Andel Arena last December with its Christmas show.
Friday features We the Kingdom, an acoustic rock- and country-slanted ensemble featuring singer-songwriter and producer Ed Cash.
“American Idol” viewers, meanwhile, may recall Colton Dixon, who finished seventh in the TV-show competition in 2012 and headlines the festival’s opening night on Wednesday. Since that TV splash, he has carved out a solid career in faith-based music, and has one of Christian radio’s most-played songs in the past year, “Build A Boat.”
Also on Wednesday’s bill: Disciple, probably the hardest rocking outfit on the schedule, featuring lead singer Kevin Young. Gospel singer-songwriter Jonathan Traylor and hip-hop/rhythmic newcomer artists Trampolines and Sis N Lil Bro also perform. (View the full schedule below.)
MORE THAN JUST MUSIC WHILE RAISING MONEY FOR GOOD CAUSES
Newton points out that there are 200 businesses and other benefactors that help make the event go each year, with more than 500 volunteers working over the four festival days.
Produced by the non-profit Alive on the Lakeshore, Unity in turn donates most of its proceeds to other area non-profits and social service agencies – more than $1.2 million over its history.
“And we don’t have row after row of merchandise tables. We have tables and booths for non-profits to help tell their stories,” he said.
The Unity fest does not have camping available and maintains a no-alcohol policy. That helps dissuade challenges that sometimes have affected other music-based events.
More than half of the Heritage Landing space is devoted to kids’ games and activities, Newton said. Many are provided by the festival youth organization partners.
About halfway into its history, Unity added a “Day Zero” – a free admission day to kick off the festival. “We didn’t want cost to be a factor or anyone to be left out,” he said. It also offers a free “sampling” of the event for the curious.
“We’ve never had people come back to us and say, ‘This is lame,’ or ‘It’s not as great as advertised.'” he said.
UNITY CHRISTIAN MUSIC FESTIVALWHEN: Wednesday-Saturday (Aug. 9-12)
WHERE: Heritage Landing, 1050 W. Seventh St., Muskegon
GATES OPEN: 4 p.m. Wednesday; 1 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
HEADLINERS: Colton Dixon, Casting Crowns, We The Kingdom, For King & Country
ALSO: Family Fun Zone featuring free games and activities; toddlers’ and kids’ areas; Camp Unity for older youth
TICKETS: Wednesday is free. Thursday-Saturday one-day pass $60, three-day pass $90; Kids under age 5 free; tickets available online here: https://www.itickets.com/events/468849
TIPS: Bring your own chairs or blankets. Coolers not allowed.
PARKING: In adjacent lots $10, handicap spaces available. Shuttles also provided. There are alternate parking options in nearby private lots and on-street.
WEATHER FORECAST (as of Aug. 7):
Wednesday: High of 83, partly sunny
Thursday: High of 81, partly sunny
Friday: High of 80, sun and clouds, humid with a chance of thunderstorms
Saturday: High of 80, with clouds and sunshine
UNITY CHRISTIAN MUSIC FESTIVAL 2023: The Schedule
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