Crowder

David Crowder is the featured performer at Festival of Praise on Sunday at LeClaire Park, Davenport. 

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

As founder Kathryn Bohn says, it has always taken a lot of faith to put on the Festival of Praise.

During the first concert in 1997, then called Praise for Life, the "forecast threated rain and sirens were blaring," Bohn, 71, a Davenport-based entrepreneur, said.

But popular Christian artist Kathy Troccoli was singing and the 6,000 people watching wouldn't leave LeClaire Park.

"It was raining all around the venue, but not within," Bohn said. "People experienced God’s presence and we got our miracle concert."

That inaugural concert has set the tone for more miracles during Festival of Praise, which returns on Sunday at LeClaire Park.

This weekend's show features headliner David Crowder, who last performed here in 2011 when, again, unlucky weather struck the festival.

"It rained buckets all day and even his management team said we should cancel," Bohn said. "I said, 'We're not going to cancel.'"

Just after 7 p.m. that night, it stopped raining. But a lot of people didn't show up because of the forecast, so Bohn said they lost about $25,000.

Months before the a previous year's festival, High Praise Unlimited, the nonprofit organization Bohn started in 2010 to put on the concert, only had $3.50 in funds. The concert budget is typically $80,000 to $100,000.

"We start out with nothing almost every year," she said. "We depend on, as I call them, a village of believers, who step up and support us."

With "strategic and spiritual planning," the concert keeps coming together.

"We never know if we're going to do it again," Bohn said. "I say, 'Are we going to do it next year? Let's pray about it.' And then somehow, everybody jumps in and backs you."

Sponsors this year include Whitey's Ice Cream, Green Thumbers, Smart Toyota of the Quad-Cities and Chik-fil-A.

Over the years, attendance has ranged from 4,000 to 9,000 people and has sometimes swelled to 15,000 people. The Festival of Praise has also brought top-tier Christian entertainers to the Quad-Cities in "our favorite outdoor setting," said Timm Dalman, concert organizer.

Acts have included Chris Tomlin, Rend Collective Casting Crowns, MercyMe and Michael W. Smith.

"The list of Christian recording artists that we have brought over 20 years is extensive and distinguished and our event typically is their first appearance in this market," he said.

Also, proceeds from the concerts typically go toward area charities. Previously, the Festival of Praise has benefited the Women's Choice Center in Bettendorf and the Salvation Army. This weekend's concert will benefit the Military Warriors Support Foundation, based in San Antonio, Texas.

Despite the risks, Bohn and her team of volunteers have pressed on to make Festival of Praise the largest outdoor Christian concept in the region.

"You can't let anything deter you," she said. "You trust the Lord and say, 'It'll be OK.'"

That's because, once a year, LeClaire Park, what she calls "holy ground," turns into a gathering place.

In 2005, concert-goers gathered a week after Hurricane Katrina to pray for those affected at Festival of Praise.

On Sunday, Bohn said they gather to pray for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

"People have come to realize there's nothing like people gathering together as the church gathers," Bohn said. "It's nothing less than amazing."

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