Liberty News

Winterfest lifts spirits of over 7,000 concert-goers on eve of 2016

January 1, 2016 : By Ted Allen/Liberty University News Service

What better way to ring in the New Year than in the midst of Liberty University’s 14th annual Winterfest, surrounded by more than 7,000 cheering Christian music fans?

“We sold more than 7,000 tickets for both nights so it is a big year for us,” Amanda Bardy, Liberty’s coordinator for resident communication, said Wednesday night. “There is so much energy. It is so exciting to be here right now.”

While the weather outside was wet and unseasonably warm, white Christmas lights along University Boulevard guided throngs of concert-goers —  including church youth groups and their pastors as well as prospective Liberty students — to the Vines Center, where they celebrated the arrival of 2016 with some of the world’s top Christian musicians.

At the stroke of midnight, revelers were treated to an indoor blizzard from a snow-blowing machine with dozens of inflatable beachball-sized snowballs released into the crowd, adding to the festive New Year’s Eve atmosphere.

During the day, many visitors tested the slopes at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre — the only four-season ski park of its kind in North America — or sharpened their skating skills at the newly renovated LaHaye Ice Center before Wednesday’s and Thursday’s concerts. Others took on the 40-foot rock climbing wall in the LaHaye Fitness and Recreation Center or played basketball at the LaHaye Multipurpose Center or soccer at the Thomas Indoor Soccer Center.

Hundreds visited the Hancock Welcome Center to take guided tours of Liberty’s campus, currently undergoing a $500 million rebuilding. Hundreds more sampled Sodexo’s food services with two-day meal plans to Reber-Thomas Dining Hall, rated No. 1 in the nation by BestColleges.com.

Approximately 550 fans spent their afternoons in the LaHaye Event Space getting an up-close-and-personal look at their favorite artists during Wednesday’s Liberty Presents: Artist Q&A with NEEDTOBREATHE, Matthew West, and Colton Dixon before Thursday’s interviews with Casting Crowns, for King & Country, and Thousand Foot Krutch attracted 500 more.

When daylight turned to twilight, fans flocked to the Vines Center to see those artists and more on stage for Winterfest’s main events, which included Wednesday's crowd-pleasing performance by Christian comedian John Crist.

Following fan favorites Colton Dixon, Rend Collective, and Matthew West, NEEDTOBREATHE played well past midnight, featuring several songs off the band’s newest album, “Rivers in the Wasteland,” including “Difference Maker,” “Multiplied,” “Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Oh, Carolina,” “The Heart,” and “Brother.” Lead singer Bear Rinehart dedicated the latter song to his younger brother, Bo, who celebrated his birthday as Wednesday night turned to Thursday morning.

Liberty alumnus Humble Tip ignited the crowd with his upbeat hip-hop intro show before rousing performances from Canada's Thousand Foot Krutch and Australia’s for King & Country on Thursday set the stage for Casting Crowns to bring in the New Year with soul-stirring lyrics from Mark Hall, who overcame a life-threatening battle with cancer last year. 

Some of the most engaging and spiritually impactful sessions were invitations from David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for spiritual development, on Wednesday and popular speaker and evangelist Clayton King on Thursday.

“Around 85 came backstage for the alter call on Wednesday,” Bardy said, noting that they received spiritual counseling from 15-20 volunteers who “prayed with them and talked with them about their decision to follow Christ.”

Nearly 70 volunteers stepped forward to help counsel another 975 guests who responded to King’s New Year’s Eve invitation, funneling through the arena and pouring into the Flames' basketball practice court to make first-time commitments or rededicate their lives to God.

“We’ve all got scars,” King said in a message inspired by his new book, “Stronger,” released this past Father’s Day, three years after his adoptive father’s death left him an orphan for a second time at the age of 40. “If you’re a Christian, the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through is going to leave a scar. If you don’t know Jesus, those scars can be meaningless, but if you know Jesus, those scars tell a story. If you’re not dead, God’s not done. His name is Jesus and He knows about hard times: He has scars to prove it.”

King, attending his 11th Winterfest, also served as host for this year's event. During an intermission, he announced a preliminary lineup for the 15th annual Winterfest in 2016 that will include a return appearance from for King & Country and another band with Australian roots, NEWSBOYS, which last played Winterfest in 2014.