By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
For a second year in a row, the Pacific Northwest will have to get by this summer without one of its biggest annual Christian events.
But while the Creation Northwest festival is now canceled for 2019 as it was in 2018, leaders behind the popular event say their goal is to relaunch it next year at a yet undetermined location.
Creation management recently announced on their Facebook page the change in plans:
“Creation Northwest has served the Northwest region for over 20 years. Last year, we felt the need to take a year off and see where the Lord was leading. It has been with much prayer and counsel that we have decided to cancel Creation Northwest 2019. However, we are excited about the possibility of a relaunch in 2020.”
This decision does not affect the older Creation Northeast festival in Mount Union, Pa., which has its 41st run this year.
In 1998, the East Coast event expanded west with Creation Northwest at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Wash. It sought to fill a gap created when the popular Jesus Northwest festival at Clark County Fairgrounds near Vancouver, Wash., ended in 1997.
In 2010, Creation Northwest moved to Enumclaw, Wash., then to Kennewick, Wash.’s Benton-Franklin Fairgrounds in 2014.
Attracting tens of thousands, the festivals feature top Christian rock, contemporary, and worship bands; Christian speakers and authors, a “fringe stage” with lesser-known bands, children’s entertainment, camping, a prayer tent and more.
Those who had already bought tickets to Creation Northwest are to receive a refund. For more information, go to www.creationfest.com
Creation managers say members of their team have had great ideas on how to relaunch the event and reach more youth and families in the region. “However, with the unforeseen challenges of 2018, we did not have ample time to formulate a relaunch plan.”
The past year was indeed a difficult one for the Creation team, as the event’s co-founder and one of its regularly featured speakers, Pastor Harry Thomas of New Jersey, was arrested in that state in December 2017 on allegations of sexual abuse against five young girls ranging in age from 5 to 12. Last February Thomas, 75, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting four juveniles and also admitted to “inappropriate interaction” with a fifth minor; with the crimes taking place in New Jersey between 1999 and 2015. On July 27 Thomas, who sobbed in the courtroom as he apologized for his crimes, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
After Thomas was arrested, he was immediately removed from leadership of both the festival and his church in Medford, N.J. Fully cooperating with authorities on the case, festival leaders noted that the charges against Thomas were unrelated to his roles in either the festivals or the church.
The festival managers say they are currently looking at different potential sites for the Northwest festival relaunch in 2020. They also are talking to churches, ministry supporters and colleagues in the region. They estimate it will take $300,000 to get the festival off the ground again, and are inviting donations at www.creationfest.com/creationfoundation