"We feel in our hearts this community can use a positive influence. When there are issues in the community, we feel like that positive [feeling] " Grooms said. "Ultimately, we're out here with the message of what God has done for us in our lives, and we want to share that with others."
Last year, Grooms said, the festival was held at a campground north of Bloomfield off U.S. Highway 63. Ottumwa Park has more space and is easier to reach for more people. Grooms has definitely seen growth but can't say how much. With multiple entrances and no admission fee, keeping a count was not a priority. The fact that everyone was welcome, however, seemed more important.
"I don't think I'd be out of line to say that for some people, this may be the only church they get," said Doug McAntire, one of the festival volunteers. "But that's how God works. There are different ways to reach people. They need to hear the message, and the music gets them stirred up, [motivating them] to come and listen."
One of many volunteers, McAntire told the Courier that this is a great opportunity for his town, Ottumwa, where young people have said they want additional activities. More than 20 bands put on an outdoor summer concert with free admission. The acts drew Christian music fans as well as everyday rock fans.
Band after band played in Ottumwa Park on Friday and Saturday. There's a similarity you will notice among the band members, Shettler said: This is their chosen way to praise God. And no matter how hard they rehearse — or rock — musicians like Shettler make no secret of their priorities.
"We consider this a ministry," he said of the band.