It was a big year for the Livin’ Out Loud music festival in Gothenburg – 10 years. For 10 years, thousands of people from across the state and the Midwest have gathered in this small community to hear great music, enjoy good food – and most importantly, to worship.
There is a sort of unwritten rule in journalism against writing news in the first person. But as someone who has experienced almost every year of Livin’ Out Loud, it’s impossible to tell you about it without putting myself out there. It is truly magical.
This was the third year the event has been held at Lake Helen. The first was in 2019, and due to the pandemic the festival was canceled in 2020. Anytime an outdoor event is planned, it’s a gamble, especially in Nebraska during the summer. But God has blessed the event with good weather over the years, and 2022 was no exception.
The organization of the concert began on Friday evening, when the stage, sound and lights arrived. The fence was erected to create privacy for the bands and backstage crews. Community members donated the use of campsites for groups to use during the day of the event. A team of volunteers prepared meals for all group members, security personnel and other volunteers. From about noon Friday until Sunday afternoon, the gravel parking lot west of Lake Helen looked like an ant hill with busy people running around doing their jobs.
The first group, headliner Zach Williams, arrived around 7:30 a.m. Saturday. For the next few hours there was a steady stream of traffic as the artists made their way to the venue. Instruments were unpacked and set up, sound checks were performed, lights were adjusted and final preparations were made to get the stage ready for the show.
Meanwhile, abundant activity was also taking place in what is called the “front of the house”. Vendors started arriving Friday night and by Saturday morning the smokers were fired up, the fryers fired up and the coolers filled with ice. Umbrellas were erected, t-shirts were folded and placed on tables, porta potties were put in place and trash cans were lined up. Shortly after noon, guests began to arrive and set up their lawn chairs and spread blankets on the ground.
At 4:45 pm emcee Keith Becker took the stage to welcome everyone, and a few minutes later the music started with Ben Fuller. But the evening wasn’t just about the music, and Ben set the tone for the true purpose of the gathering early on. He shared his personal story of being a lost 16-year-old with a gun in his mouth but stopping short of pulling the trigger. A story of addiction and despair. Until he met Jesus. It was powerful and everyone was silent as he spoke with great emotion.
Many of those who took the stage Saturday night had similar stories. Stories of struggles, trials, near-death experiences, tragic loss. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it was a somber event, because every one of those stories has a happy ending. Lives filled with joy, love, laughter and hope. That was the over and over again message of the night…hope.
Livin’ Out Loud does not charge admission. We do not sell tickets or charge people for parking. The thousands and thousands of dollars it costs to put on the concert each year are raised entirely from private donations and sponsorships, from individuals and businesses who want to be partners in carrying the message of hope from a stage, to a park, to a small venue. midwestern city.
Lives change every year. Just this year our prayer team had an opportunity to minister to the homeless and victims of assault and abuse. An avowed atheist had a conversation with the trash collector while driving through the park collecting trash cans, only to discover that the trash man was a pastor. The “atheist” was at church the next morning. And there are so many stories we never hear about.
Livin’ Out Loud is more than a concert. So. A lot. More.
Contact Ellen Mortensen