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Sonshine: An enjoyable community for entire family

WILLMAR — Like any annual music festival, Sonshine draws a specific and predictable crowd. However, the community that has been shaped since the festival’s start in 1981 is unique in how positive the message and how family friendly the environment have remained.

“It is my first year here but I love the atmosphere,” said Sophia Mattera during an interview on Thursday. “It is so cool to see so many different types of people gathered in one place for music and worship.”

The community seems to be something that people of all ages enjoy about Sonshine. Teenagers said that they love walking around at early hours of the morning making new friends in the tent city, parents said that they love how safe they feel bringing their kids to the festival and letting them run and play for the weekend.

While the music is appropriate for festival goers of all ages, the festival truly excels at filling a gap that is usually left at large music festivals: entertaining younger children who get tired of watching bands all day.

There are two tents and an inflatable playground at Sonshine dedicated to entertaining children with arts and crafts, live performances and games geared towards younger audiences.

On Friday kids were building popsicle stick structures, sculpting with Play-Doh, and playing with bubbles before the main acts of the afternoon started in the tent featuring clown shows, juggling acts and acrobats swinging on ropes inside the tent.

Sonshine has had a kid’s tent for at least the past 20 years according to Christine Christensen, kid’s tent coordinator for this year’s festival.

“It’s our first time coming to Sonshine but we love it,” said Kim Foust as she watched her son play with bubbles in the kid’s tent. “Although this tent is a great break from the music, my kids really loved watching Family Force 5 and dancing during other bands performances too.”

Most families use Sonshine as a reason to take a vacation every year because it offers something for everyone to do.

“My kids love the kid’s tents,” said David Hains, a 17-year Sonshiner, on Friday. “It gives them something fun to do if we don’t want to be at the shows. Aside from this they love watching the main stage shows or just hanging out at our campsite as a family. Sonshine has always been a great weekend to get away and be together as a family.”

The four-day festival ends tonight after Main Stage performances by headliners Kari Jobe at 7:30, Thousand Foot Krutch at 8:40 and Switchfoot at 9:45 p.m.

For fans of heavy music the Indoor Stage will feature big names like Colossus at 7:40 p.m., Children 18:3 at 8:25 p.m., Wolves at the Gate at  9:10 p.m., and August Burns Red at 10:10 p.m.

For a schedule of the final day’s concerts and events visit