En Fuego celebrating 15th anniversary

Published 5:21 pm Monday, June 27, 2011

For 14 years, fans of contemporary Christian music have been able to flock to Chilton County one weekend every summer to hear their favorite bands.

Each year, at the En Fuego music festival, more than 15,000 people come to a farm in Verbena to enjoy some of the top Christian recording artists from around the country. This year marks the 15th edition of the event, which started out as a small youth group event.

“Travis Crim was a youth pastor in town, and he was doing an outdoor event,” said En Fuego co-founder Johnny Giles. “A girl came up to him after the event and told him about how she had accepted Jesus. The Holy Spirit spoke to him [about doing an outdoor event on a larger scale].”

From there, Giles and Crim set out trying to find a place to host the event.

“We prayed about the location,” he said. “And we stayed in the first location for three years.”

The first event gathered around 300 people, a far cry from the estimated 15,000 that attended last year.

In its first few years, En Fuego was a paid admission event, but after a few years admission was done away with.

“The first five years it was a paid event,” said Giles. “I think it was like a $5 ticket. God really laid it on our hearts to make it free, and (speaker) David Nasser challenged us to make it free.”

While it may seem that En Fuego was intended to become “The Woodstock of Christian Music,” as it has been called, Giles said that was never really the case.

“We never put any thought about what it would be,” he said. “It just kind of happened. Once the radio stations came in and started supporting us, that was huge.”

What many people don’t consider is all the work that goes into En Fuego. The process of organizing and putting on the event is a six-month process.

“We start everything in January,” said Giles. “We meet once a month from January to June. Then in July, we meet every week until the show. That’s all just planning, lining things up.”

Giles said organizing the event was only half of the effort.

“The [real] work begins two weeks before the event,” he said. “We have to prepare the farm we use, and then we have tons of clean up afterwards. We have about 350 volunteers, mostly from Chilton County, that work extra hard. If not for the volunteers, the sponsors and the churches, it wouldn’t happen.”

The lineup this year includes SentByRavens, Luminate, Sanctus Real and mutli-Dove Award-winning and Grammy-nominated David Crowder Band. Giles said their appearance was particularly special.

“We’re extremely excited about having David Crowder Band,” he said. “They’re done touring after this year. Our show is the last one they’ll play in Alabama. We didn’t plan it that way. They’re top notch to deal with.”

En Fuego will take place Aug. 27 in Verbena.

For more information including directions, complete band lineup and how to volunteer, visit www.enfuegoinfo.com.