"There's so much going on at the festival, but you're still only paying concert ticket prices," said Spanding, from his office in Gaylord, MI, site of the annual festival.
Christian music is at the forefront of Big Ticket, June 23-25 at the Otsego Country Fairgrounds.
Main stage headliners include TobyMac and Chris Tomlin (on the 23rd), Switchfoot (24th) and NeedtoBreathe (25th). You might expect to pay $35 (the festival's daily admission price) for a typical concert by such artists.
"But we have things going on all day – a 'Kids Zone' with giant inflatables and other attractions, speakers, a Scripture exhibit, lumberjack competitions, a strength team....things for the whole family," Spanding continued. "We're telling people they can pick out a day, come early and take it all in," he noted of the 8 a.m. gate opening times on Friday and Saturday.
Both Tomlin and TobyMac performed at last year's Big Ticket on separate nights. This year they're together.
The festival once again is hosting a "Country Faith Live" night on Wed. June 22 featuring country music artists: American Idol-winner Scotty McCreery and Raelynn. (schedule details below).
MORE THAN MUSIC
A fascinating educational opportunity at Big Ticket this year is the "Inspired" exhibit: a 25-piece traveling collection of Scriptural artifacts presented by Dr. Scott Carroll. The artifacts will be part of the new National Bible Museum expected to open next year in Washington, DC.
Also new is a lumberjack competition series. That's right....log-rolling, axe-throwing and chopping and so forth from Jack Pine Lumberjack Shows.
Big Ticket officials have added additional nearby campsites for those who want to attend multiple days. The newer primitive sites are within walking distance of the fairgrounds. And there are full hook-up sites at Lost Valley Bible Camp five miles away.
WORKING THE COUNTRY
This is the third year for the special country music night prior to the regular festival. It's a unique approach for Big Ticket in reaching out to fans of a different musical genre.
"Within country music there are many artists who are very vocal about their faith and are not shy about a faith-based event," Spanding said of the evening featuring McCreery.
In his autobiography ("Go Big or Go Home") the singer credits his faith as a factor in keeping him grounded during his rise to fame.
It's also a tribute night to soldiers, with discounts for military vets and active military personnel. Part of the mix is Souls of Honor, an organization that provides scholarship funds for children who have lost parents in the line of active duty.
BUILDING A FOUNDATION
This is the 11th year for Big Ticket, which began and then returned to its Gaylord home, with a couple of its middle years at fairgrounds in Ionia and Allegan.
"On the fairgrounds here, we could grow to accommodate 15 or 16 thousand," Spanding said. A good share of their attendance is from the southern half of the state.
The director underscores the roll of sponsors in producing the festival. Wellspring Lutheran Servicers and Ebels General Store are signature sponsors, with more than a dozen other business, media and non-profit partners. "They allow us to offer the prices we do, yet provide so much. We couldn't be more thankful."
Big Ticket Festival:
June 23-25, with a country faith night on June 22
Otsego County Fairgrounds, North Center Ave. Gaylord, Mich.
Mainstage artists (partial list):
June 23 – TobyMac, Chris Tomlin, Hollyn, Jason Fowler
June 24 – Switchfoot, Matt Maher, Remedy Drive
June 25 – NeedtoBreathe, Jeremy Camp, Josh Wilson
June 22 – Scotty McCreery and Raelynn
several other stages, kids activities, exhibits, speakers, and other attractions.
Tickets: $35 daily adult advance, $25 for age 12 and under. Two and three day passes also available, prices slightly higher at the gate. ($29 general admission for June 22 country night).
Reserved on-site parking, $10.
For details about other stages/artists and other information www.bigticketfestival.com, 989-731-2808
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