WILLMAR -- The 29th annual Sonshine Festival officially began yesterday with more than 30 bands hitting the stage.
The evening ended with concerts by Tenth Avenue North and Casting Crowns, an 11-time Dove Award winner and 2005 Grammy winner for best pop/contemporary gospel album of the year.
Some of the festival-goers were there for the first time, others were veterans who keep coming back because they enjoy the music and the atmosphere. Tony Naylor, from Bemidji, has been coming to Sonshine for three years, and he continues to go because the festival always teaches him something new.
"I love it," Naylor said. "I love being closer to God and learning from other people and the music."
This year, he brought two of his friends who have never been to Sonshine before, Matthew Ayers and Zach Jones. Ayers said even though he's "not as religious" as his other friends, he still likes to listen to the music.
"Christian music has evolved so much," Ayers said. "It's not what you would think of playing in church."
Jones said he's impressed with how the festival is run and can't wait to come back in future years.
"This is a really safe environment for kids," he said. "It's a very Christian environment. I feel very comfortable here."