Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 15, 2005

Winsted's first Higher Ground festival time is here

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

The first ever Higher Ground Christian Music Festival this weekend is set to bring some of the hottest talent in the industry to Winsted.

Headliners Michael W. Smith and Rebecca St. James highlight the two-day event, which also features Minnesota native Sara Groves, and Sanctus Real.

Organized by a core committee from Holy Trinity, Higher Ground is set to serve as a second major fundraiser for the school. Its sister festival, the Winstock Country Music Festival, has taken place just south of Winsted for the past 12 years.

The schedule is patterned after the schedule for Winstock, with campers being allowed to park in the campgrounds Thursday evening, starting at 3 p.m.

Friday, August 19

The gates and sports pavilion open Friday at 10 a.m., and the entertainment kicks off with Heidi Holt at 1:30 p.m.

Holt’s music comes from a heart of passion to serve God and to draw people into worship.  She longs for people to know God more deeply through her lyrics and to come honestly before Him as they, like her, discover that His grace is sufficient for their daily needs.

Following Holt on stage at 3 p.m. is Sanctus Real, an Ohio-based foursome that received two coveted Dove award nominations last year.

Illinois trio BarlowGirl hits the stage after Sanctus Real. The three girls were the back-up band for their father before branching out on their own and starting a career in the Christian music industry.

A special performance follows BarlowGirl as The O.C. Supertones take the stage as a part of its farewell tour.

The group, which has released seven albums, and stretched its career over a course of the past 10 years, is set to bid farewell to its following of fans.

Former Minnesota school teacher Sara Groves will follow the Supertones onstage. She recently released her third album, and is geared up to take the stage at Higher Ground.

Closing the night Friday is Christian music legend Michael W. Smith.

Smith has become one of the most enduringly popular artists on the Christian contemporary music front and is also finding considerable success as a mainstream artist.

Continuing his musical reign into the millennium, Smith had sold more than seven million records and had 25 number one hits. Smith started his career in a band called Higher Ground, as a keyboardist, in 1979.

Rock Ministries of St. Cloud will also be performing skits and songs following Smith Friday evening, and also earlier in the day Friday at 2 p.m.

Saturday, August 20

The gates and sports pavilion are set to open Saturday at 9 a.m., with the entertainment kicking off at noon with Olivia the Band.

The foursome from Hawaii were a special last-minute addition to the line-up, and are sure to get things off to a good start Saturday.

Next up on stage ,at 2 p.m., is Fusebox, which began performing together in 2000 as Rebecca St. James’ back-up band.

Following Fusebox, at 4 p.m., is Tait, which blends the styles of modern rock, punk, pop, soul, and rhythm and blues music. The lead singer, Michael Tait, is a former member of the hit band dc Talk.

Tree63 sets the course into the evening as it takes the stage at 6 p.m. The band, originally known simply as Tree, is from South Africa, and cites its influences as Delirious? and Sonicflood, with dashes of U2, Jars of Clay, and early dc Talk.

Powerhouse pop band FFH follows Tree63 on stage at 8 p.m., and has seven number one radio hits, 17 top five singles, and multiple Dove Award nominations under its belt.

Rounding out the festivities Saturday at 10 p.m. is Christian music icon Rebecca St. James.

The Sydney, Australia native has made the globe her mission field since debuting in 1994 at age 16.

Sunday, August 21

A praise and worship service will take place Sunday at 8:30 a.m. in the stage area.

What to watch for

Like Winstock, Higher Ground is sponsoring a campsite decorating contest. Register at the Higher Ground information booth by 8 p.m. Friday to be considered.

The festival is also sponsoring a T-shirt decorating contest, with work having to be done by hand, and presented at the Higher Ground information booth by Friday at 8 p.m.

– Tickets for the two-day event are still available at the gate. Ticket prices are $52 for the weekend entertainment, and $30 for a camping pass.

– A volunteer meeting for people working at Higher Ground will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the event site, located just south of Winsted on McLeod County Road 5.

Volunteers should be sure the times they signed up for have been verified with the chairperson from Higher Ground listed below. If you have signed up to work, and have not heard from the appropriate chairperson, please contact him or her at the numbers below:

• Higher Ground souvenirs, Joan Barrie-Daigle (320) 485-2445

• Entertainer souvenirs, Cathy Paulson (320) 395-2317

• Concession tickets, Chip and Julie Guggemos (320) 485-4529

• Volunteer tent, Sarah and Mae Stifter (320) 485-2391

• Stage crew, Joe Neumann (320) 485-5000

• Beverages, Melissa Neumann (320) 485-5000

• Backstage, Stephanie Gillman and Karen Lueck (320) 485-4794

• Security, set-up, and tear-down, Bernie Lueck (320) 485-4794

• Campground/tickets, Tracy Felder (320) 485-3201 and Terry Fasching (320) 543-3036

• Information booth, Julie Fasching (320) 543-3036

• Sports area, Josh and Lori Krych (320) 485-2438

– The emcee of the event is Dassel-Cokato graduate Craig Sanborn, who is involved with ministry work.

– Call 1-866-821-5151 or visit www.hgmusicfest.com for more information.

Festival emcee has area connections

Staff Writer

Craig Sanborn, former class clown at Dassel Cokato High School, suspects his love of entertaining people was how God was leading him into a speaking career.

“I’ve just been following God’s lead in my life,” Sanborn said in an interview Aug. 5. “I’ve always been comfortable in front of people.”

Sanborn, the son of Curt and Anita Sanborn of Cokato, will emcee the Christian music festival, “Higher Ground,” in Winsted Friday and Saturday, Aug. 19-20.

Sanborn said he will be relaying general information about the festival for concert-goers, introducing the artists or the ministries who are sponsoring them, and sharing stories and thoughts, allowing groups of musicians to exit the stage while another group sets up.

“It’s pretty huge,” Sanborn said, although he has spoken to groups of 2,000 young people at a time in the past.

Sanborn grew up in a house across the street from Peterson Park in Cokato. One of his favorite memories of Cokato is its Corn Carnival, he said.

He could see the trucks hauling in the carnival rides, causing his anticipation to reach fever pitch. Sanborn also remembers playing tag with his friends around the stage.

Originally, Sanborn thought God wanted him to be a radio broadcaster. After he graduated from high school, he went to Brown College for broadcasting.

From 1995 to 1997, he was a disc jockey and sports director for KILR radio station in northwest Iowa. But the radio gig was actually preparation for a public speaking career, he said.

“I remember a comment made to me from the worship leader at a camp where I spoke,” Sanborn noted. “He said I was one of the best enunciators he had ever heard. It was a strange comment, but I realize it came from my years spent as a DJ.”

Sanborn left KILR in 1997 to find work in a bigger market. He was offered a job as the operations manager at a Christian teen nightclub planned for the St. Paul area, where Sanborn now lives.

“It seemed like a great opportunity, so I took it,” he said.

At the same time, Sanborn took a position as youth director for junior high kids at Trinity Baptist Church in St. Paul.

Within weeks after taking the two jobs, things changed dramatically. The nightclub plans collapsed and the director of youth ministries at Trinity left. Sanborn was offered the director’s position.

“It all seemed too coincidental to me. I had my own plans and vision for my life, but it was obvious that the Lord was leading me into youth ministry,” Sanborn said.

Another coincidence, after a weekend of solitude the same year, Sanborn had developed a message, “Rage Against the Media.” It described how the media often sends a false and misleading message to young people.

He presented the message in Duluth at a youth conference. Immediately after, Sanborn received numerous phone calls, asking him to come to speak at various camps, youth rallies, and conferences, he said.

“I was shocked at the response I received,” Sanborn said. “I didn’t realize what a hot topic the media was, and how that one seminar would change my life.”

Sanborn began traveling, first speaking only on the media, but then adding different topics as time went on.

Before he develops a new message, Sanborn said he takes a weekend in solitude to ponder what he will say, as he did for the message on the media.

In 2001, Sanborn formed Rock Steady Ministries. It provides speakers and musicians for organizations that wouldn’t have access to them because of their size, location, or financial situation, he said.

If Sanborn isn’t working behind the scenes with the ministry, he is traveling as a speaker. He has traveled the world, including trips to the Ukraine and the Philippines, and said he often lives out of a suitcase.

This summer, he spent six weeks speaking at youth gatherings in Wisconsin, Michigan, Wyoming, and two in Minnesota.

“There is literally nothing I’d rather do in life than speak to teenagers,” Sanborn said.

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