Fans fill Verbena hillside for En Fuego (updated)By Stephen Dawkins Published 8:00am Sunday, August 25, 2013
The sun was out and the weather was clear for thousands of people gathered at En Fuego on Saturday.
Event representatives estimated the outdoor Christian music festival, in its 17th year, drew more than 10,000 people to a hillside in Verbena for worship and decision-making.
“We had a great turnout,” En Fuego co-founder Johnny Giles said. “(We’re) trying to reach people for Christ, and we feel like God was faithful in that.”
Giles said decisions made at the event included 56 first-time salvations (people starting relationships with Christ), 58 re-dedications (people recommitting their lives to Christ), four calls to ministry (people coming forward to serve) and 20 other decisions (people handling problems such as substance abuse or physical abuse).
Giles said 11 salvations occurred before Saturday at pre-En Fuego meetings in Castleberry and Demopolis.
“It’s just like a promotional opportunity to get out into some of the rural areas that maybe don’t know about the event and share the gospel while we’re there,” Giles said of the pre-event meetings.
Brian Jones and the worship team from New Life Community Church led a prayer meeting at the En Fuego venue Friday night.
Giles said one improved aspect of the event this year was the number of counselors available to talk to people about their decisions.
Instead of having to assign each counselor to four or five people, Giles said the number of counselors nearly matched the number of people making decisions, allowing counselors to devote their time to one or two people.
“We had about 100 counselors, so we were blown away by that,” Giles said. “We had a great group of counselors that did a great job of taking care of that need. We almost had a counselor for every person, so it was a great improvement on that.”
Jeremy Moncrief served as team leader for counseling and “did a phenomenal job,” Giles said.
Giles said headliner Jeremy Camp did not disappoint the crowd with his message and music.
“He (Camp) was our favorite headliner that we’ve ever had by far,” Giles said. “We were really stoked about him. He is just a genuine guy with a great testimony.”
Giles said he and fellow board members hope En Fuego will attract more adults to attend in the future.
“We’re gearing up for reaching more adults,” he said. “We want to continue to be more diverse to have bands adults would like also.”
Organizers also want to expand participation and financial and ministerial support from area churches.
“One thing we desire is to build more and more relationships with churches,” Giles said. “It’s our goal to continue to cross those denominational lines and include as many people as possible. It’s something we’re never going to give up on.”
Other than more audience diversity and church participation, Giles said the board does not foresee making any drastic changes to the structure of the event.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about it,” Giles said. “We feel like that there’s no need to change something when it’s working.”
Giles thanked the Clanton Police Department and Chilton County Sheriff’s Department for managing parking, security and traffic flow at the event.
He also thanked the city of Clanton and Chilton County Commission for their support.
Investigator Erric Price with the sheriff’s department said no injuries or incidents were reported at En Fuego on Saturday, and a steady flow of people in and out of the event during the day resulted in a smaller-than-expected number of people exiting the venue at the end.
“This was the smoothest year we’ve ever had,” Price said. “The crowd toward the end of the night started evening out in increments.”
Price said as a result, County Road 23 did not have to be closed as planned.
Price said shuttle buses were on standby but did not have to be used to transport people.
Since it didn’t rain, more dry ground was available for cars to park at the venue this year, and Price said many people carpooled.
“We want to applaud and thank the city of Clanton, the sheriff’s department and all the reserves for making that go smoothly,” Price said. “It was certainly one to put in the record books. All the prep time was very worth it.”