It was a big year for the Livin’ Out Loud music festival in Gothenburg – the 10th anniversary. For 10 years thousands of people from across the state and the Midwest have come together in this small community to hear great music, enjoy some great food – and most importantly, worship.
Journalism has an unwritten rule against writing stories in the first person. But as someone who has experienced Living Out Loud almost every year it’s impossible to tell about it without being there myself. It is truly magical.
This is the third year the event has been held at Lake Helen. The first took place in 2019, and the festival was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Anytime an outdoor event is planned it’s a gamble, especially during the summer in Nebraska. But God has blessed the event with good weather over the years, and 2022 was no exception.
Setup for the concert began Friday evening, when the stage, sound and lights arrived. A fence was erected to create privacy for the band and backstage crew. Community members donated the use of campers to use the bands on the day of the event. A team of volunteers prepared food for all the band members, security personnel and other volunteers. From Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, the gravel parking lot west of Lake Helen looked like an ant hill with people busy getting their work done.
The first band, headliner Jack Williams, arrived at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. For the next few hours there was a steady stream of traffic as the artists made their way to the site. Equipment was unpacked and set up, sound checked, lights adjusted and final preparations were made to prepare the stage for the show.
Meanwhile, much activity was also taking place in what was known as the “front of the house.” Vendors started arriving Friday evening, and by Saturday morning the smokers were put away, the fryers turned on and the coolers filled with ice. Tents were set up, t-shirts were folded and placed on tables, porta potties were put in place and trash cans were placed. Shortly after noon guests began to arrive and spread out their lawn chairs and blankets on the ground.
At 4:45pm emcee Keith Baker took the stage to welcome everyone, and a few minutes later Ben Fuller’s music began. But the evening wasn’t just about the music, and Ben soon set the tone for the true purpose of the gathering. He shared his personal story, that of a 16-year-old who disappeared with a gun to his mouth but didn’t stop when he pulled the trigger. A story of addiction and despair. Until he met Jesus. It was powerful, and everyone was quiet as he spoke with great emotion.
Many who took the stage Saturday night had similar stories. Stories of struggles, trials, near-death experiences, tragic losses. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it was a tragic event, because every one of those stories has a happy ending. A life full of happiness, love, laughter and hope. That was the message of the night and it was repeated…hope.
Livin’ Out Loud does not charge an admission fee. We do not sell tickets or charge people for parking. The thousands of dollars it costs to put on the concert each year are raised from private donations and sponsorships, from individuals and businesses who want to partner to bring a message of hope from the stage, to the park, to the small space. Midwestern city.
Life changes every year. This year alone our prayer team had the opportunity to serve the homeless, and victims of assault and abuse. A so-called atheist struck up a conversation with a garbage collector while driving around a park picking up trash cans, only to discover that the trash collector was a pastor. The “atheist” was at church the next morning. And there are many stories we never hear.
Livin’ Out Loud is more than just a concert. therefore. a lot more.
Contact Ellen Mortensen