Unity Festival Celebrates Music and More

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Battistelli F. performingFrancesca Batistelli performs Wednesday night at UnityIt seems there's something new each year at the Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon.

Sure, there's still four days of great Christian music from bands such as Switchfoot and Newsboys, a kid's Fun Zone, low-priced food tents, and various vendor and non-profit displays.

But this year, get ready for the debut of "Art and Soul."

'We're always looking for ways to engage our guests in innovative ways," said Unity director of marketing Christopher VanOosterhout. "We have an artist (Tony Goodwin) coming to help guide participants through a session where they will find the truth of our loving God revealed in art."

There will be two small group sessions offered each day Thur.-Sat. Sessions lasts two hours and students leave with an original art work. (See a video of the "Art and Soul" concept at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21SaY7IHbfI).

Cost for this session is $20 in addition to a Unity Ticket.

"We've seen this be a successful extension of guest offerings at other Christian festivals around the country," VanOosterhout added.


Begun 16 years ago, the festival is the signature event of Alive On The Lakeshore, a faith-based, non-profit group which brings a variety of programs to the area. And at Unity, music still takes center stage.

Returning from last year are headliners Francesca Batistelli (Wed.) and For King & Country (Fri.). Festival organizers received strong feedback over the past year asking for these artists to come back.

"During most years, there is one night where the flavor tends to be a bit edgier," VanOosterhout noted. For 2016 that would be Thursday, when the hard-rocking band Red takes the stage just before the melodic rock of Switchfoot, which showcases its new release, "Where the Light Shines Through."

And there's the tried-and-true Newsboys who close out Unity on Saturday night. "They are the second most frequent visitors all time to our main stage, and just about everyone is familiar with their (musical) library," he said.

The Spotlight Stage (formerly known as the "A-Stage: with its youth lounge area) highlights more youth-oriented artists – such as up-and-comer Ryan Stevenson (Fri.) and his Christian radio hit "Eye of the Storm." And there are some surprises – such as a solo set by Switchfoot lead singer Jon Foreman and a performance by illusionist Tom Coverly (see Unity website for details).


The festival has its own praise choir, led by long-time Unity emcee Joel Weldon. Sixty voices from more than two dozen area churches perform at 2 p.m. both Fri. and Sat., with some other surprise appearances.

Food tents with low price points are featured courtesy of Meijer ($1 hot dogs, $2 hamburgers and brats, etc.). This year's menu includes some healthier options such as fresh blueberries.

"Food is not the main focus of the festival, but we get so many comments on it that it really bears repeating," said VanOosterhout of their "family affordable, with something for everyone" approach.

The kids area includes inflatable games, climbing walls, archery and something called "octo-soccer." Some of the activities come within the "Camp Unity" concept run by Grace Adventures.

A blood drive, a 5K Fun Run, prayer team, and a "virtual reality" experience of life in Haiti are all part of the Unity mix, helped by a 700+ volunteer squad – many of whom show up year after year.

Alive on the Lakeshore continues its programming this fall – they're bringing back For King & Country on Nov. 4 for a concert at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon (for tickets visit www.startickets.com).

The Details:

What: Unity Christian Music Festival, presented by Alive on the Lakeshore; Aug 10-13 featuring main and spotlight music stages, children and youth activities, seminars, exhibits and more.

Who: Mainstage artist headliners: Francesca Battistelli (Wed.); Switchfoot (Thurs.); For King & Country (Fri.); Newsboys (Sat.); (Headliners take the stage at approximately 8:45 -9 p.m.)

Spotlight Stage headlined by Brightwork (Thur.) Ryan Stevenson (Fri.), Zealand Worship (Sat.) (headline artists take stage approx. 7:45 p.m.)

Where: Heritage Landing, downtown Muskegon.

Tickets: Aug. 10 is "Day Zero" with no admission charge

Prices through Aug. 9: 1-day $27.50, 2-day $50, 3-day $65 (Slightly higher day of show).
Reserved seating sold out.

Other info: Kids 5 and under free. Kids' activities and extreme games (start Aug. 11) free.

Gates open at 4 p.m. Wed.; 1 p.m. Thur.-Sat.

Entire schedule , ticket purchase link, and more at www.unitychristianevents.com

Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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