By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
COCOA -- One of the largest, most anticipated, family-friendly music festivals along the Space Coast will return this weekend.
"Spring Praise Fest 8" will be hosted on Saturday, March 15 at Riverfront Park in Cocoa, with a day full of non-denominational Christian music beginning at 11 a.m.
Admission is free, although festival-goers are encouraged to bring a pair of serviceable shoes for donation to Brevard's homeless population.
Seeing the need for an event that promoted positive moral values, Mike Reed, Chris Herrnkind and Norm Channell came up with the idea to host an outside Christian music concert, featuring several local bands.
"The very first Spring Praise Fest was conducted in the front parking lot of Riverside Presbyterian Church in Cocoa Beach in the spring of 2007," said Mr. Reed, director of Spring Praise Fest. "A stage was erected in the parking lot alongside A1A, and several bands came to play music to anyone, who wanted to walk over and listen. We had about 200 people come throughout the afternoon."
With so much positive reaction from those, who attended, as well as the bands, Mr. Reed, Mr. Herrnkind and Mr. Channell were convinced that they needed to host Spring Praise Fest the following year.
"But, we needed a more comfortable place to have it," Mr. Reed added.
In 2008, Spring Praise Fest 2 was hosted at Riverfront Park in Cocoa Village, and the popularity of the festival has continued to skyrocket ever since.
"Each year, we added more activities for kids, invited different Christian bands to participate, added arts and crafts vendors, mission related groups and food," Mr. Reed said. "Also, in the beginning, we struggled to get the word out, but, now, we have so many people, who look forward to it each year, and contact us to participate."
As a matter of fact, Mr. Reed gets so much interest from bands, not only around the state, but around the country, as well, to participate in Spring Praise Fest.
"We have mulled over inviting these bands from out of town to come play, but we have decided this is a Brevard County event, as there are many local Christian bands, whom we want to still get in," Mr. Reed said.
So, of course, the music line-up features some of the most talented Christian bands from around the Space Coast, including Cathren Hawks and Aleah Davis.
"All of the musical groups that will be playing this year are unique in their own way," Mr. Reed said. "There are many different styles and genres of Christian music; therefore, we look forward to hearing all of them."
In addition to excellent music, Spring Praise Fest will feature a bevy of activities throughout the day, including two giant slides, a water park, bounce houses, face painting and, new this year, a 24-foot rock-climbing wall.
Upon entrance to Spring Praise Fest, Mr. Reed is hoping to collect hundreds of pairs of shoes to donate to The House of Hope on Merritt Island.
"For many years, we have asked for food donations, which go to the less fortunate," Mr. Reed said. "When we asked for shoe donations for the first time last year, the response was awesome. We donated more than 200 pairs of shoes. We contacted House of Hope and asked what their greatest need was and they told us it is shoes -- not food, but shoes -- so that is what we are asking for."
Mr. Reed added that donated shoes do not need to be brand new for donation, stating that a decent pair of used shoes will do just fine.
"Show people, who are in need, that you care," he added.
While Spring Praise Fest is a non-denominational Christian music festival, Mr. Reed hopes that music lovers of all genres and walks of life will come out for the event.
"Those, who have never attended the Spring Praise Fest, will find that this event is an outdoor Christian music festival," he said. "It's all about Christian music bands spreading the Word of God through their music."
The directors of Spring Praise Fest said that they want to create an atmosphere of families spending a fun day together, relaxing and enjoying themselves.
"No one is targeted to get preached to," Mr. Reed added. "If someone wants to know more about the Christian way of life, how it can fulfill them and get answers to problems they may be having, then there are people, who will be glad to talk to them. Otherwise, anyone can come and just chill out."
Furthermore, Mr. Reed stressed that the bands that will be performing at Spring Praise Fest are simply musicians expressing themselves, rather than pushing an agenda.
"How many times can you listen to 'Mustang Sally' before you get ill?" Mr. Reed asked. "Christian music today is very advanced in its musical composition and message."
He added that many, who have grown up on rock-n-roll, are now playing and composing Christian music because it means much more to them.
"They can express their ideas and feelings of what and how this world can and should be, even more so than in the secular music world," Mr. Reed said. "Those, who have gotten 'turned off' by Christian music in the past decade, have not heard it for what it is today."
A true family-friendly event, Spring Praise Fest truly offers something for all ages.
"We are one of the few events in this county where you can bring your whole family and not worry about the small kids being exposed to unpleasant things," Mr. Reed said. "We promote families spending more fun time together, which seems to have lessened over the years. It's time to get back together and leave the past behind."
Spring Praise Fest 8 is Saturday, March 15 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Riverfront Park in Cocoa Village.
Admission is free, with the public invited to bring a blanket or lawn chair.
Concert-goers are also encouraged to bring a pair of shoes for donation to Brevard's homeless.
Riverfront Park is located at 401 Riveredge Blvd., Cocoa.
For more information, call (321) 960-1033 or visit www.SpringPraiseFest.com or visit www.Facebook.com/SpringPraiseFest.