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Friday, October 7, 2005

Party Time on the National Mall

"The Mall [is] suited up for another showcase event. This time, the trappings are a skateboard park, a food court, dozens of volunteer stations, two huge tents for hundreds of celebrity guests, three JumboTron screens to project onstage musical performances, and banners bearing the names of such corporate sponsors as Amtrak and the Washington Capitals."

"DC Festival, on Oct. 8-9, is the latest production of Oregon-based Christian evangelist Luis Palau, who has been drawing large crowds since introducing his concept of 'festival evangelism' six years ago.

"The event, in the making for two years, is being supported by nearly 900 Washington area churches. Organizers hope to draw as many as 200,000 people over the two days, which would make the $3.4 million affair the largest religious assembly on the Mall since an estimated half-million attended a Promise Keepers rally in 1997."

"DC Festival will feature top-flight Christian contemporary musical acts. Stars of extreme sports will demonstrate their skateboarding and biking skills, as well as talk about their Christian faith. Faith-based 'VeggieTales' actors will entertain children.

"'There will be something for everybody,' Palau spokesman Craig Chastain said. 'We want the community to see that the church can throw a good party.'"

"The event—which has the slogan 'Great Music! Good News!'—will be the Washington debut for Palau, who has held more than a dozen such festivals in other U.S., European and South American cities. Long known as a top preacher in the Latino world, the Argentine native has become widely recognized in Anglo evangelical circles with the success of his festival approach."

"Palau officials said that since they changed their gatherings in 1999, attendance has risen almost tenfold. Recent festivals have drawn 200,000 in the Twin Cities, 300,000 in Fort Lauderdale and a million in Palau's hometown of Buenos Aires. Before committing to a city, Palau's team makes it a point to secure local grass-roots support for a festival. In Washington, Palau said, he particularly wanted—and got—the backing of area African American churches." ...

"Despite his success, Palau acknowledged that there is a risk that things will not go well when he gives his spiritual message. 'I always think they're going to run to the bathroom, buy Cokes and hamburgers and disappear till the next musical group shows up,' he said. 'Amazingly, they don't. I'm as amazed as the next guy.

"'I think we don't give credit to people that their spiritual interest is as high as it is.'

"But the Palau method is at work here too, he added. 'We keep the best [musical] act for after my preaching,' he said. 'We're not stupid.'"

Watch a video about DC Festival!

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