If you’ve been seeing the CityFest posters around Tyler and you’re wondering what the commotion is all about, you’re not alone.
“It’s a huge, regionwide festival,” CityFest Operations Director Sarah Brittan said. “It’s really just getting area churches, local community members and organizations all on board together to put on a city festival.”
More than 360 churches and organizations have partnered so far with CityFest. The festival’s big events occur in downtown Tyler on Oct. 5 and 6 and organizers expect 15,000 people to attend.
“It is a celebration and a convening of people around service, prayer and sharing the Gospel; sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ in our neighborhood,” Festival Director Duffy Johnson said.
The first part of the festival each day will include a family fun zone aimed at a young audience. This portion of the festival will start at 4 p.m., and will include events like BMX (Bicycle Motocross), FMX (Freestyle Motocross) and skateboarding demonstrations. There also will be kids shows, inflatable bounce houses, football with NFL players, baseball, softball, laser tag and face painting.”
The second portion of the event is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. with various mainstream Christian artists. The lineup includes Newsboys United, Josh Turner, Lecrae, Pat Barrett, Marisol Park, Blanca and Ryan Stevenson. The stage will be set up at the intersection of Erwin Street and Broadway Avenue in downtown Tyler.
CityFest, though, is more than the two-day downtown festival. There will be outreaches spread over one week, including events aimed at Latinos, men, women, fans of rodeo and prison inmates. All activities are free.
“There’s something for everybody there, from 4-year-olds to 104-year-olds, something will resonate with them,” Johnson said.
Tyler was chosen as a host city after community leader Elam Swann requested the event years ago. The city meets the requirements of the Luis Palau organization in order to host the event, including church and community involvement, and population density.
“They expect it to be the biggest crowd that’s ever been in downtown Tyler at one time,” Brittan said. “You have almost 400 churches onboard with something together in the area. It’s truly monumental to see everyone set their denominations and certain beliefs aside and come together for one big event for the community.”
CityFest is part of the Luis Palau Association, and has its roots in a revival crusade headed up by Palau in Tyler in the 1990s. Palau served with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association before beginning his own ministry, doing events in Central and South America, and eventually in Texas.
“His crusade model turned into a CityFest, so now we put on festivals for a city,” Brittan said. Palau’s vision has now been taken over by his son, Andrew Palau, who will be sharing and preaching at the event.
The co-chairs of CityFest East Texas’ executive team are business leaders Rocky Gill and Elam Swann and University of Texas at Tyler President Michael Tidwell.
CityFest’s theme focuses on three main pillars: unity, prayer and service. In line with the theme of service, CityFest partners with local churches to operate CityServe, an organization that works in the areas of foster care and adoption, sexual exploitation and trafficking, homelessness, racial reconciliation and mentoring.
“Our biggest hope is the unity of all these churches working together and the relationships that are built are carried on” Brittan said. “We’ve just seen the benefits of having a unified front like that in a city working together.”