Justin Fatica voiced a desire at Creation Fest when he was about 19 that is coming
true this year.
He was hanging out in the back of a pickup truck when he told his best friend, "One day I want to get up there and speak at Creation."
(Courtesy photo) Justin Fatica, a Catholic who grew up in Erie, is among the speakers at Creation Fest.
His buddy looked at Fatica like he was crazy and said, "You can't be up there. You're Catholic."
Twelve years later Fatica, who travels around the country talking to youth about bringing God into their lives, is a featured speaker at Creation Fest Northeast - the largest Christian music festival in the country. It will be held June 29 to July 2 at Agape Farm in Mount Union.
Fatica, 32, is one of the first Catholic youth speakers at Creation Fest, which typically has a nondenominational vibe. "This is one of my answered prayers," Fatica said.
Growing up in Erie, Fatica was raised Catholic and attended an all-boys Catholic high school, but he didn't think too deeply about his faith until he was 17.
"I thought I got a girl pregnant. Then I realized that one little mistake could really change your life real fast. That was when I really started to change," Fatica said.
So, that summer, he went to a Catholic retreat and underwent a transformation. He was the same energetic kid, but he decided to dedicate his life to helping young people come to Christ.
In this quest, Fatica formed Hard as Nails Ministry in 2002, which assists schools, churches and organizations in introducing people to Jesus.
Fatica loves spreading his "in your face" message -- which he admits is more Protestant than Catholic in nature.
"Usually we, as Catholics, you leave it to the priest. It's their job. It's not my job. I knew I couldn't be a priest. I'm Catholic, and I love my Catholic priest. I want to help bring people to Christ as a Catholic," he said.
Fatica will speak at the Main Stage at 9:15 a.m. July 1 and on the Fringe Stage at 3 p.m.
Speaking at Creation Fest is an opportunity to spread the word of Jesus to the more than 70,000 people who attend each day.
"We are seeing more and more people come each year," said Adam Grosze of Beckon Entertainment (Creation Festivals Marketing and Publicity).
People flock to Creation Fest every year because there's something for everyone -whether they want to relax on a lawn chair listening to a worship leader, rock out in the front row or quietly devote time to God, Grosze said.
"I think Creation also offers those who may not feel comfortable stepping inside a church for whatever reason, a place to come to hear about this 'Jesus' that they've heard about at school or through music, wherever," he said.
And there is something new every year.
The newest performers this year are Shine Bright Baby, an Ohio-based Christian rock band that formed in 2007.
"We are really excited about the opportunity," said Josh Fink, who sings and plays guitar.
"Creation is probably the biggest crowd we have played. We're kind of itching in anticipation of the concert. Our goal is to encourage people to just stay hopeful, to have a good time and just rock with us."
Music is a key factor that keeps Joe and Cindy Urgolites of Hastings returning to Creation Fest, where they have attended for five years. This year, they will be traveling with 60 friends.
"For years I didn't go because I hated crowds. Once I got there, it was just a great experience. It's all about Jesus and who he said he was," Joe Urgolites said.
"It's like heaven with campfires," Cindy Urgolites said.
Olivia Vanderlin, 16, of Altoona couldn't agree more.
She considers Creation Fest a highlight of her summer. Last year Olivia and her friend Alisha McCoy were baptized at Creation.
"We felt it was the right time in our lives. We were mature enough to understand what it meant," Vanderlin said. "We have both been through a lot of stuff in our lives, and we were able to just let everything go and give it to Christ."