By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN In the last seven years, for one weekend in August, Higher Ground Music Festival in Winsted has been the place to hear inspirational Christian music from some top performers.
Although it has been the highlight of the summer for many, the festival committee recently announced there will not be an eighth event.
“I am very saddened to have to end Higher Ground after seven years,” Terry Fasching chairman of the Higher Ground committee said. “It has had a huge impact on this community, as well as thousands of attendees. We receive so many e-mails and letters every year from people who tell us how attending Higher Ground has changed their lives. It’s these stories that made it a very difficult decision to end Higher Ground.”
After the committee reviewed this year’s numbers, it made its final determination based on the festival’s declining attendance. In the first four years of the festival the attendance had increased, but there was a decrease in numbers the last three years, according Fasching.
It isn’t just the Higher Ground festival that has experienced a decrease in attendance, according to Fasching, but something the Christian music industry has been experiencing nationwide.
The committee had hoped to improve attendance this year by scheduling the event two weeks earlier than usual.
The new date was to accommodate a large percentage of the festival’s fans who are families that have school-age children. For them, the later date in August conflicted with the start of school activities. The committee said they had received a lot of popular feedback on the schedule change, but it didn’t seem to help improve attendance.
The weather was another factor that the committee took into consideration, after having experienced several festivals during which severe storms took place.
“In Higher Ground’s seven years, we had rain six,” Fasching said. “We had some huge rains all-day rains with wind and lightning, as well.”
Although the storms were a major worry of the committee, it also provided Fasching a favorite memory in 2010.
“After the rainstorms came through, a beautiful rainbow appeared over the festival, the stage, and the large wooden cross in the center of the venue,” Fasching said.
Approximately 25,000 fans have attended Higher Ground since it began in 2005, with the largest crowd, of about 5,000 people attending in 2008.
The crowds came to see and hear more than 140 performances, by some of the best in christian music, according to Fasching, which included: MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Third Day, Michael W. Smith, Jeremy Camp, Chris Tomlin, Steve Curtis Chapman, Kutless, Mark Schultz, and many more.
“Higher Ground was not about making money, but more about providing Christian music to people to come and find refuge and get to know Christ,” Fasching said. “We were a huge success in that respect.”
“We have always prided ourselves on being a family event. We have given free admission to more than 5,000 children, 10 years and under, every year.”
The same Higher Ground committe members have been committed to this event since it began. Members for all seven years of the event are:
• Chairman Terry Fasching
• Marketing, Julie Fasching
• Promoter Matt Best;
• Security and Stage, Joe Neumann;
• Vendors, Melissa Neumann;
• Ticketing and campsite, Tracy Felder; and
• Backstage and artist contracts, Stephanie Gillman.
The following committee members volunteered the first year, but didn’t become committee members until the second year:
• Sponsorships, Jeff Campbell
• Catering, Colleen Entinger;
• Artist Circle, Roxanne Felder;
• Souvenirs, Lois Danielson;
• Site prep., Todd Fleischacker;
• Artist’s merchandise, Joan Barrie-Daigle; and
• Volunteers/artist merchandise, Gary Daigle.
Higher Ground’s four board members are: Best, Tracy Felder, Gillman, and Terry Fasching.
Terry Fasching said he is appreciative of the festival’s many sponsors and volunteers who helped the past seven years, and said he has been inspired, “every year when I realize what a group of volunteers can accomplish.”