Concert to bring crowds to town

The largest Christian concert in the nation is coming to Enumclaw, bringing four days of music, fellowship, education and family-friendly entertainment.

Concert promoters recently signed a contract to take over the Enumclaw Expo Center grounds July 21 through the 24th.

With a daily estimated attendance of about 15,000, Creation Fest will be the largest event to hit Enumclaw in years. Not since the halcyon days of the King County Fair or the KMPS summer concerts – or Enumclaw’s one-time shot at hosting Lollaapalooza – has a single event brought so many people to town.

Creation Fest is no stranger to the Pacific Northwest. The event was staged for the past dozen years at The Gorge Amphitheatre on the eastern banks of the Columbia River, but that arrangement eventually ran its course.

In a Web site message, Creation Fest director the Rev. Harry Thomas noted some problems with the Gorge. Since a change in ownership, he wrote, there had been a “noticeable decline in quality, upkeep and attitude.”

That sent organizers scrambling to find another suitable venue. A three-day, 1,100-mile journey around the state had them looking at farmland near The Gorge Amphitheatre, at the fairgrounds in Monroe, at the Clark County Fairgrounds near Vancouver and at sites around Yakima and the Tri-Cities.

Eventually, Enumclaw got the nod.

Event producer Bill Darpino was in town last week, continuing his meetings with Joan Lewis, Expo Center manager.

Darpino said the wide-open spaces around the Expo Center were quite a draw.

“A key component (of Creation Fest) has become the camping element,” he said, explaining that many concert-goers bring tents and sleeping bags and remain for all four days of the event.

Owners of pastures around the Expo Center have been contacted and may lease their ground for July’s campers, Darpino said.

The makeup of the audience could change slightly, now that Creation Fest is closer to cities like Seattle and Tacoma, Darpino admitted. The closer proximity may lend itself to a greater number of single-day ticket sales.

Darpino said Creation Fest offers activities from morning until the evening hours with a kids’ stage, worship stage and late-night stage. In addition to the headline acts, there will be opportunities for lesser-known bands to play, and Creation Fest also includes activities like a petting zoo and skate park. Food vendors and some commercial vendors will share the grounds.

Darpino said the concert headliners will likely be announced in a couple of weeks and many other details will start coming together in February.

Organizers set up everything and provide all the staff. Lewis said the primary job of the Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the Expo Center, will be keeping restrooms clean.

Creation Fest is headquartered in Medford, N.J., near Philadelphia, Darpino said, and offers two events a year. The operation originated with an East Coast show, now staged in Mount Union, Penn., and 12 years ago added a Creation Northwest show.

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