published Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Casting Crowns performs on alcohol-free Riverbend night

Mark Hall, lead vocalist of Casting Crowns, performs Tuesday during Riverbend's Faith and Family Night.  Casting Crowns was Tuesday's headliner.
Mark Hall, lead vocalist of Casting Crowns, performs Tuesday during Riverbend's Faith and Family Night. Casting Crowns was Tuesday's headliner.
Photo by Allison Carter.

Dylan Liles remembers he was in sixth grade when he first heard Casting Crowns perform live.

The now 18-year-old from Dalton, Ga., was struck by the contemporary Christian band’s popular hit “If We Are the Body” because he could relate to the words.

“Their music just reaches out to kids,” he said. “They’re not church hymns.”

Many fans of the Atlanta-based band that rocked the Coca-Cola Stage at Riverbend’s Faith and Family night on Tuesday shared Liles’ feelings — that Casting Crowns breathed a new depth into Christian music.

“They focus on the heart of what is wrong with Christians,” said Mike Valovcin, a Middle Creek Baptist youth pastor in Oliver Springs, Tenn. “It has to be more than going to church on Sunday.”

Casting Crowns didn’t disappoint its fans as the band opened with its title track song “Until the Whole World Hears,” a song that lead singer Mark Hall said captures the band’s message.

“If you stumbled on Faith and Family Night by accident, it’s OK,” Hall told the packed crowd. “We’re not going to shave your head.”

Faith and Family Night brought church youth groups, families with small children and couples to the festival.

Before Casting Crowns performed, Christian music blared through the speakers as the chains were tightly clad around the beer ice chests.

Some visitors agreed they were attracted to Riverbend on the alcohol-free night.

Reserved seats filled quickly. By 3 p.m., Kristen Davenport couldn’t reserve a seat in the middle row. Instead she paid $5 to sit up front in the blanket seating.

For her, Casting Crowns was a lifeline.

When she first tuned her radio to J103 and heard their song “Praise You in This Storm” — which speaks about thanking God even in the hardships — she was touched.

“It came on at the perfect time,” she said.

NEW MEANING

For others Faith and Family Night took on a whole new meaning.

As the gates opened at 4:30 p.m. and the crowds began to trickle in to the festival, 22-year-old Michael Orszulak and 19-year-old Brittany Fitzgerald said their wedding vows to one another from the Tennessee Lottery Stage.

“They were going to get married at the courthouse,” said Fitzgerald’s big sister Ashley. “[But] Riverbend has been such a part of her life.”

The bride’s parents, Dawn and Rick, have worked the festival for at least 15 years — most of her life. For 10 years, they worked security at the Tennessee Lottery Stage, Rick Fitzgerald said.

When the couple’s daughter told them she was going to elope because Orszulak only had three weeks off from his military tour in Qatar, Rick Fitzgerald thought of Riverbend.

“I couldn’t send her off without trying,” he said, after the ceremony with tears in his eyes. “I’m still amazed that it was going on. It was so great.”

Chip Baker, executive director of Friends of the Festival, said every year they get requests to have weddings at the festival but they are always turned down.

This year, officials made an exception since Orszulak is an Army medic and only has a few weeks off before he is deployed again, Baker said.

“This was extra special,” he said. “We were very glad to make it happen.”

Escorted by her father, Brittany Fitzgerald walked up the stage platform in her short ruffled white dress and met her groom. Chattanooga City Court Judge Russell Bean married the couple.

Afterward when the newlyweds were asked where they would spend their honeymoon, they shrugged.

“Riverbend,” the bride said with a laugh.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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Selah said...

Great Job Riverbend!!! Faith & Family Night was Great...Casting Crowns was marvelous...Can't wait till next year...

June 15, 2011 at 1:05 a.m.
grandmastaj said...

If you're going to come in here and trash other people's beliefs, get a life, miserable people. You did not have to come wildman, get over it.

June 15, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.
tarheeljosh said...

If you recall, Riverbend used to shut down for a night. Faith and Family night was the result of a few enterprising Christian sponsors who felt it would be a good use for the off night. If you aren't a fan of faith and family night, that's fine. It's not designed for your interests. You shouldn't feel cheated, though. For you, it's just Riverbend's night off. Yes, many Christians do drink. I think the lack of alchohol is primarily to remove the motivation for irresponsible patrons (Christians and non-Christians alike). The night is designed to be family friendly. It's hard to keep that mission when Jimmy and his buddies had a few too many and are now stumbling/drooling/worse all over the families you're trying to attract. I say good on 'ya Riverbend!

June 15, 2011 at 9:12 a.m.
bergerberg said...

Hey Libertarian:

Riverbend rents the area and throws the festival. Shouldn't a libertarian support their right to throw whatever kind of festival they want?

June 15, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
SeaMonkey said...

nobody's twisting anyones arms, wildman. promoting what you believe isn't forcing.

June 15, 2011 at 10:37 a.m.
bigbearzzz said...

Wow, can't we have one night?! I mean just one?! Where we say hey no need to drink, just come hang out without people getting in an uproar? I mean you guys get the alcohol every other night of the festival, and all we are asking for is one night and we still get the third degree. Some people dont want to be around it, is it so hard to say "Sure, ya know what? This night is for those who choose not to be surrounded by all the drinking." You get your choice, give us ours. And if you truly believe in Free-will, then give us our one night without griping and complaining about it. And Wildman...well....ur wildman....what is there to say? We all know you are anti-religion so you arent going to have a positive thing to say regardless.

June 15, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.
tarheeljosh said...

I don't quite understand your concern Libertarian. The city isn't locking down the liquor stores in town on faith and family night. If someone wants to get blitzed, they can walk a couple of blocks and get hammered at home. After all, from what I understand it's a whole lot cheaper that way. If you just want to argue for argument's sake, I've got better uses for my time. It's a good evening of wholesome entertainment. A rarity these days. Again, good job Riverbend!

June 15, 2011 at 12:13 p.m.

I think every group should have their night... as long as they cover the cost of it.

Imagine a night provided by wildman's group... tank-tops, butt crack, long neck Bud, and the ground covered in butts. Oh wait... that's Nightfall.

June 15, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
bergerberg said...

Hey Libertarian--

Live and let live, brother! You're sounding like a liberal there. The libertarian response should be to let the free market work. Vote with your feet and don't go to "sweet tea night." I won't judge you for wanting to have a drink responsibly, and maybe you won't judge me for wanting to take my kids to an alcohol-free concert?

Also, you do realize that Casting Crowns wouldn't play a venue where alcohol is being sold, right?

June 15, 2011 at 2:23 p.m.
dave said...

Quite frankly I wish they would not have ANY Beer or Wine sales at Riverbend at all. I have always thought it was rather two-faced of the city to sell beer at Riverbend and then hand out DUI's to those leaving a little tipsy. If this is supposed to be a music festival lets make it about the music and not about drinking and partying. Lets face it, the city makes money off of this going and coming...

June 15, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.
tarheeljosh said...

Lib, we'll agree to disagree on this one. I feel like it's a perfectly reasonable request. It's like leaving my pocket knife in the car when I go to the courthouse to renew my tags. I only use my pocket knife to open packages and letters, but some irresponsible people will use them incorrectly. While I'm not the one who would cause a problem, I know in advance that I can't bring it in. As a result, I leave it in the car. It's a preventative measure to keep those who would misuse the pocket knife from causing a problem in the courthouse. Same with the lack of alchohol. You know in advance it won't be there. It's not there so that the festival can make sure that faith and family night doesn't have to deal with the irresponsible drinkers who would attend and damage the intended atmosphere of the evening. As a result, if you want to attend that night you leave the drinking behind. Unfortunately, many of the adults at Riverbend earn the need to be treated as children as a result of their consumption. Just for one night, they try to prevent that. I can't make you like this practice. I just hope you can see from the other side of the argument.

June 15, 2011 at 3:11 p.m.
Selah said...

bookie...lol...lol

Great job Riverbend planners, volunteers, transporters, security, and beloved patrons...Love It...

John 3:16 For God So Love the World that He gave His One and ONLY SON (JESUS)that whosoever believeth in HIM shall not perish but have everlasting life. (ask Jesus into your HEART today...let Him shape your viewpt)

June 18, 2011 at 2:25 a.m.
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