Over 15,000 people are expected to descend on downtown Tyler this weekend as part of the CityFest event that has been more than a year in the making.

“It’s a partnership between the churches and East Texans from all different cultures to come together in unity and just celebrate together, and tell the story of Jesus Christ,” CityFest East Texas Co-chair Elam Swann said during a news conference Tuesday.

Produced by the Luis Palau Association, the weekend event along with the activities leading up to it include luncheons, a rodeo, extreme sports demonstrations, festival games, and performances by mainstream Christian artists.

Organizers expect about 1,000 volunteers and over 15,000 attendees over the course of both days of the festival this weekend.

CityFest though is not only about the two-day festival. For months, hundreds of East Texas churches have worked together to serve the community and prepare for this week.

CityFest has partnered with local churches for CityServe — a program in which teams worked to address six issues in East Texas that they felt churches needed to be involved with. These issues were: foster care and adoption, racial reconciliation, homelessness, mentoring, sexual exploitation and behavioral health.

Tyler Mayor Martin Heines praised the work done through the program.

“The social services and the community needs are best met through faith-based leaders and communities,” Heines said. “That is exactly what CityFest and CityServe are doing.”

Green Acres Baptist Church Pastor David Dykes said there is nothing new that is coming out of the festival, “just an increased effort in being unified in our churches. We don’t need to invent the wheel when there are already all these great things to share the good news.”

This event has its roots in a Luis Palau crusade held in Tyler in 1995.

Swann was part of a small team that assisted in that crusade and he contacted the Luis Palau Association, and encouraged another event to be held in Tyler.

“I carried that all these years,” Swann said. “That feeling when Luis Palau walked in back in the Oil Palace — the Holy Spirit was in the air.”

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper

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