Thousands say farewell to Cornerstone

Cornerstone 2011

A Christian rock concert with roots in the Tri-States is calling it quits.

Thousands of people will say their final farewell to Bushnell's Cornerstone festival this week as they look back on 29 years of musical moments.

"We're kind of the thrift store of Christian festivals. There's the Gap festivals and there's us. We tend to have the bands that other Christian festivals are a little nervous about putting on stage," Genesis Winter, Cornerstone's director said.

Cornerstone began just outside of Bushnell, Illinois in 1984. In the last three decades, the festival has celebrated not just Christian music, but rock music, too.

"A lot of people originally come here for the bands for the first year or two. But after that, they come back for the friends. I've made a lot of great friends," Steve White, an event volunteer said.

Cornerstone's expecting a crowd of about five thousand this week, far from what it used to.

"If you'd been here 10 to 12 years ago, you would have seen 20 thousand people here," White said.

"You'd go to Walmart and there'd be no eggs on the shelves. Like, we ran Walmart out of eggs, it was so huge!" Winter said.

"But the economy as it is, it's not good. It takes a lot of gas money. A lot of us drive a long ways to be here and it gets expensive. Now, that was never going to deter me, I was going to be here regardless," White said. "But the majority of people here are young, in college, many without jobs and it adds up."

It's the reason why the event's organizers have decided to take a new direction.

"This is our final year," Winter said.

Cornerstone's Director Genesis Winter says ticket sales plummeted in recent years and the cost of the festival continues to grow. The event's main sponsor, Jesus People USA, absorbed the costs over the years but struggled to make ends meet. Their ministry also runs a homeless shelter in Chicago that houses about 450 people every night.

"In the end, we love the festival but it's almost like we're throwing a gigantic party and we're not making enough to cover the expenses of the party. So when it comes down to it, sometimes, you have to make a choice between housing people so they don't freeze to death over the winter and putting on the festival," Winter said. "We're sort of in a position where we just have to say goodbye."

Cornerstone runs from July 2-7. Bushnell Rotary Club volunteers say they are looking at other options for Christian concerts in the coming years in Bushnell.

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