FAITH & VALUES: TobyMac headlines resurgent Spirit West Coast

TobyMac headlines the first day of Spirit West Coast 2012 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The festival runs May 25 to 27. Visit or call 831-443-5399, ext. 6.

May 25, 2012 10:00 am  •  By TOM PFINGSTEN For the North County Times

It was a quiet weekend this time last year, when the popular Spirit West Coast music festival should have been filling the fairgrounds with Christian music.

For the first time since it started in 2004, the three-day concert series was cancelled in 2011 as the lagging economy drained attendance, but as the sun sets Friday in Del Mar, fans will once again flock to the grandstand to hear the popular Christian hip-hop artist TobyMac.

Last week, the director of Spirit West Coast said that the original festival in Monterey, which started in 1997 and has never missed a year, will be on hiatus this year in order to bring the music to North County.

“Like a lot of special events, we’re a nonprofit, and ticket sales don’t always cover the financial obligations,” Jon Robberson told the North County Times. “We’re really only able to do one, and this year, the one that we’re doing is Del Mar.”

Attendance is not expected to rise to its former levels, but the schedule looks similar to previous lineups, Robberson said. Besides TobyMac, Christians superstars Tenth Avenue North, Family Force 5 and the Newsboys will be appearing in Del Mar this weekend.

Also expected to perform is San Clemente pastor Holland Davis, who leads Worship Life Calvary Chapel and in 2006 composed the popular worship song “Let It Rise.”

“We’re expecting 6,000 or 7,000 people, and we used to have 10,000 or 12,000, so it’s down, but that’s the way things are right now in the special events business,” said Robberson. “Many, many special events have had to pull back or trim, and some are completely gone.

“It’s economics —- these events are optional, they’re not something people have to do, and people have pulled back on their discretionary expenditures,” he added.

Robberson said the festival starts at 2 p.m. Friday, and includes full days of music on Saturday and Sunday, running from 10 a.m. until midnight.

“It’s an interesting mix of entertainment and message, I guess you could say,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of speaking moments, but every night we tend to have one speaker who can deliver a Christian message.”

On Friday night, in an “encore appearance in the county,” evangelist Luis Palau will speak between musical performances.

The following day, Nick Vujicic is scheduled to appear.

“He’s a motivational speaker who was born without arms and legs, and he’s just a tremendous speaker,” said Robberson, adding that Vujicic has appeared at Spirit West Coast in the past. “He probably got the biggest response we’ve ever had for a speaker. When he talks about overcoming hardship, or persevering, keeping your eye on the important things in life —- he knows what he’s talking about.”

Moving forward, Robberson said Spirit West Coast is on an “event-by-event basis.”

“We’re not predicting what we’re going to be able to do —- it’s all based on our financial ability, and every year seems to be a different scenario,” he said. “We would hope to be there every year.”

Even while the recession robs tickets sales, Robberson said he is aware of the irony that a recession may be when audiences most need to hear the Christian message.

“I think that’s why people like Christian music, because it is uplifting,” he said.

Three-day tickets for this weekend’s festival cost $126 and one-day passes cost $55; a junior discount is available for kids ages 6-12, and children 5 and under are free.

Tickets and a full concert schedule are available at