'Choose 2Believe' music festival to be held in Methuen

This year’s fourth annual Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival, entitled “Choose 2Believe,” will be held Aug. 14 in Methuen. The basic format for the all-day concert will be the similar to past years’. There will be a chapel for eucharistic adoration, and Mass will be held on the main stage at 5:00 p.m. This year the featured musician will be Sean Forrest who is outspoken about being pro-life. Other artists include Bob Rice & Backyard Galaxy, Janelle, Scarecrow & Tinmen, Bernie Choiniere, Martin Doman, Crispin, Monica Ursino, Aaron Thompson, Brianna, Trevor Thomson, Crossed Hearts.

Unlike the past years, however, organizers says they have found it necessary to charge admission.

Peter Campbell, the concert’s founder and coordinator, has made several changes to the festival in an effort to draw more people. The event, held at Salem Common the last three years, will be held at Greycourt Park in Methuen. Besides providing an enclosed area that makes it possible to regulate admission, the new location has trees, which will provide shade if the day is hot and sunny. The concert begins at 1:30 p.m. and will go a few hours later this year to 10:00 p.m. This is the first year there will be a full stage with professional lighting and sound. The festival also received more donations this year, and the vendor section will be larger.

Campbell hopes the concert will attract at least 2,000. About 500 attended the first concert in 2001. The festival went well and word-of-mouth brought around 2,500 to the concert in 2002. Last year although it did not rain, it was very cloudy. The threatening weather was a big factor in keeping attendance down to down to 1,000 to 1,500 people for the 2003 concert, Campbell said.

For the last three years the festival has been free, but each year there has been a shortfall, Campbell said. Despite efforts at fundraising, Campbell has not raised enough money to cover the expense of hosting the concert.

"If we had the money, we'd just keep doing it for free," he said.

Tickets cost $20 per person with discounts for group rates, and children under 12 are free. “This is the first year we’ve sold tickets. It’s a little nerve-racking,” Campbell said. “We’re really praying hard to sell enough tickets.”

The concerts are important for Catholics in Boston, especially at this time, Campbell said.

"There's so many ways to feel discouraged," he said.

Campbell believes God knew it would get tougher to be Catholic, and that is why He inspired events like the music festival. People of all age groups attend the family-friendly concert, although it is primarily a teen event. Campbell wants to reach out to Catholics, especially young Catholics, and show them it is good to be Catholic. Campbell worked in youth ministry at the Immaculate Conception Church in Salem for four years.

"It's so hard to get through to the kids," and the concert is a fun way to get through, he said.

Before World Youth Day in 2000, Campbell came up with the idea to create a Catholic concert.

"During that time I was going to daily Mass, and I was very prayerful," he said.

He knew the concert would be a challenge, but he wanted to get people on-fire about their faith. While planning the first concert, Campbell had doubts about how it would turn out. He hoped for the best and prayed, “Please God let this work out so that people don’t think I’m crazy.”

Campbell hopes to continue the yearly concert for many years. “It goes as long as we can keep it going,” he said.

Campbell and four other volunteers make up the board of directors, which has several meetings throughout the year. As the concert nears, the team of 30 to 50 people meet to plan the event. Extra volunteers are needed during the concert. Planning for a concert in October, the 2005 Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival and other festivals is now underway.

The second Saint Fest will be held on Oct. 31 in Salem. Rap and jazz artist Father Stan Fortuna, a Franciscan priest from the Bronx, will perform.

"He's probably the biggest Catholic draw," Campbell said. "He's someone you'll hear about."

Tickets are $10, and only 500 are available. There will be a Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival in Lancaster, Penn. in the spring of next year. “We’re looking to expand the events across the country,” said Campbell. The Massachusetts festival draws people from as far away as Texas and Arizona, but Campbell hopes to start concerts closer to home for those people.

To obtain tickets to the 2004 Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival, Choose 2Believe, call 1-800-801-0893 extension 4 or visit the website at www.Proud2BCatholic.com.