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Sonshine festival begins Wednesday in Willmar, Minn.

WILLMAR — Willmar will nearly double in size starting Wednesday as Christian music fans fill the Willmar Civic Center grounds for the 32nd annual Sonshine Music Festival.

The festival will kick off with a 5 p.m. Wednesday performance by Christian rock band We Are Leo and will run through Saturday.

The line-up includes big-name Christian artists Skillet, Toby Mac, Family Force 5, Newsboys and Hawk Nelson. Bob Poe, executive director of Sonshine, said there will also be plenty of bands new to Sonshine on this year’s line-up.

“We have a lot of new, fresh bands, so the folks who have been coming for awhile will have a lot to choose from,” Poe said. “They’ll be surprised by the number of new bands we have playing this year.”

Poe said one artist he’s heard a lot of buzz around is George Canyon, a Christian country singer.

“Country is a new endeavor for us, but everyone seems to be really excited about him,” Poe said.

Artists new to Sonshine that Poe is excited to see include Lecrae, a Christian hip-hop artist, For King & Country, a Christian rock duo, and Kye Kye, a Christian indie band. Poe is also excited that Petra, a Grammy-winning Christian rock band considered one of the pioneers of the Christian rock and contemporary Christian genres, will be playing Sonshine as part of their 40th anniversary tour.

The festival will feature four stages this year — Main Stage, Fringe Stage, Indoor Stage, which will feature seminars and worship by day and will turn into the HM Stage by night, and Debut Stage, where bands can show up by 9 a.m. each day and have the chance to play.

Additionally, a kids stage and kids craft tent will be set up each day, to entertain the whole family. Also added this year are a 250-foot zip line, a bungee trampoline and Fiesta Time inflatables. Pony rides and the JSAW Skatepark will also be set up for extra entertainment.

For festival-goers who are new to Sonshine, Poe said they should make sure to come in through the main entrance on Civic Center Drive, and from there, the camping staff and traffic directors will help them get situated.

Poe also had some other tips for all attendees.

“It looks like it’s going to be really hot, so bring a lot of water or be prepared to buy water all week, and don’t forget sunscreen,” Poe said.

He also suggested downloading the new Sonshine mobile app, on which attendees can create their own schedules and keep track of all the bands they want to see.

On Friday, Poe said ticket sales were currently up from the pre-sale numbers of 2012, and he’s still planning for around 15,000 people.