The First Christian Music Festival

Ichthus Ministries, Inc. began in 1970 through the insight and creativity of one seminary professor, Dr. Bob Lyon, and a group of concerned students at Asbury Theological Seminary. Its inception came about as a Christian reply and alternative to the 1969 Woodstock festival of upstate New York. On May 9, 1970, this group’s response brought into being the first Christian music festival to take place in the nation. The group’s intent was to offer the youth of this country an alternative to the lifestyle and music choices which surrounded them in secular society. Ichthus and its goals continue unbroken to this day making it the longest continuously running Christian music festival in the nation.

In 1975, Ichthus incorporated as a separate non-profit entity from Christian Services Brotherhood, a student organization at Asbury Seminary, and officially became Ichthus, Inc. By the early 80’s, Ichthus was beginning to realize that it was set apart from other similar events. Striving to reflect that difference, the organization changed its name in 1985 to Ichthus Ministries, Inc.
By the early 1990’s the leaders of the ministry began to realize that changes were going to need to be made if the ministry was to continue. Increasing attendance, a deteriorating rental site, rapid volunteer leadership turnover, strained community relations, and a non-renewable lease led the members of the ministry to seek God’s lead for the future.
Governed solely by volunteers and faced with mounting pressure to find a new location for the festival and stabilize the ministry, in 1996 the Board of Directors hired its first full time Executive Director Gary Baker. Faced with the nearing threat of an expired lease, in 1997, a 111 acre farm was purchased four miles from the festival’s previous location. In 1999, the first festival was held at this location.