2010-07-08 / Features

Creation Festival Draws Numerous Fans, Faithful


MOUNT UNION, Pa. (AP) – Sarah Mills of Doylestown has made the trip to the Creation festival every year of her life, her dad says.

She is 4 years old.

“Her first year, she was 8 months old. The year before that, she enjoyed it from her mom’s belly,’’ Peter Mills said.

The four-day Christian culture and music festival has been around a lot longer than Sarah, and she’s not the only one who keeps coming back.

Creation, in its 31st year, is a popular pilgrimage for church groups, families and volunteers, with visitors from across the country.

Up to 100,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which began Wednesday and ends Saturday.

Some of the country’s most popular Christian music groups are performing, including Switchfoot, Casting Crowns and Newsboys. More than 60 bands and 20 speakers are appearing.

The festival is tucked away in the Allegheny Mountains at the 100-acre Agape Farm, nearly halfway between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

“We all come here for the same reason, and that is to praise God,’’ said Lisa Thome, 51, of Schaefferstown.

Joe Strangerity of Bowmansville has made the trip for 23 of the festival’s 31 years. He says he keeps coming back to give his service.

Strangerity, 50, volunteers as a doctor at the first aid station and says that this year’s festival is one of the best because of the cool weather. He’s seen fewer injuries and cases of dehydration than in the past, and it’s given him time to enjoy the festival’s purpose.

“Everyone comes together as a community to learn and praise God,’’ said Neil Novotnak, a volunteer youth group leader from Zion’s Church in Hamburg.

Novotnak is one of 195 churchgoers from the Hamburg area who came together to attend the festival.

They have been going since the mid-1990s, and this year’s group is the largest. Novotnak said that the ages in the group vary greatly, but there are activities for all, and that is a draw that keeps them returning.

“It’s about fellowship and, when you are praising God, it doesn’t matter the form that worship takes,’’ Novotnak said.

Melissa Deibler, 24, of Mechanicsburg, said it’s the atmosphere that has brought her back almost every year for the last 12.

Kevin Eichelberger, 15, of Dover, said he came back to the festival wanting to be baptized after seeing it done the previous year.

The festival’s candlelighting service draws Michelle Kennedy, 22, of King of Prussia. She said it gives her an overwhelming feeling of togetherness and community.

Jessica Doolittle of Dallastown said that she and her husband wanted to make the trip to the festival to gain strength and take a “vacation from troubles.’’

The couple and their two children lost their home in March and moved into a trailer that they are afraid they will lose.

“We couldn’t afford the tickets to come here, so I prayed,’’ Doolittle said.

After getting advice and the name of a man to e-mail her story, the couple received complimentary tickets.

“Creation shows me that, like it says in Matthew, even faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains,’’ Doolittle said.

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