Officials hope to draw thousands to Heartland Family Festival

Greg and Jenny Morrison of St. James Parish in Omaha have it marked on their calendar.

So do country music star Collin Raye, folk-rock musician Mike Mangione and comedian Jonnie W. – and scores of others who plan to attend or perform at the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Aug. 2 Heartland Family Festival on the Creighton University campus in Omaha.

"We’re looking forward to being around other faithful families, enjoying the music and fellowship," said Jenny Morrison, who with her husband plans to bring their five youngest children – Chloe, 13, Faith, 10, Liam, 7, Charlie, 5, and Celine, 2.

They also have their tickets – $15 each because they were purchased before June 15, Father’s Day. And their children can attend free – as can all youths who are under 18 when accompanied by an adult. After June 15, prices go up to $25 for adults.

Festival VIP tickets are available for $100 and provide a view of the concert at Morrison Stadium from the venue’s Skybox lounge, as well as food and drinks and a cash bar.

Organizers hope to pack the stadium with as many as 5,000 people, and tickets are being sold online at the archdiocese’s website, archomaha.org/ministry/programs-and-conferences, Creighton University’s box office, Adoremus Books in Omaha and Gloria Deo bookstores in Omaha or Lincoln and Spirit Catholic Radio offices.

An outgrowth of the successful Heartland Catholic Men’s Conference – which is being held the day before at Christ the King Church in Omaha – the family festival starts at 10 a.m. with an arts and crafts show at Creighton’s D. J. Sokol Arena. The nearby Morrison Stadium opens at 3 p.m. with food, games, face painting, bounce houses and the evening concert, which closes with a fireworks display and tribute to military families.

People of all faiths are invited, said Peter Kennedy, manager of adult faith formation in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

"It’s an opportunity for people to come and spend some time together as families," Kennedy said. "I’ve spoken to several pastors and lay people of different denominations who feel the family is under attack. We need to promote the Christian idea of family and keeping this strong."

Raye, Mangione and Jonnie W. also have broad appeal, with performances that touch on religious and family themes, Kennedy said.

Raye, a Southern Baptist who converted to Catholicism at age 23, said he strives to convey Christ’s love through his music and actions, much like the phrase often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, ‘"proclaim the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words."’

"I want it to be fun and joyful," Raye said of the family festival. "I like to get across the idea that you can be a vocal, loud Christian and still be cool. It’s a great vehicle, a great platform to announce the saving grace of Christ."

Known for such hits as "Love Me," "One Boy, One Girl," "That’s My Story" and "In This Life," Raye said he is excited about the concert – and about speaking and performing with Jonnie W. and Mangione at the men’s conference.

"God blessed me with many things," Raye said. "I’ve had success and adulation, and I’ve been deep in the dark valley. I want to talk about my faith journey, and how the faith has helped me and my family."



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