With students in Altoona Area School District returning to school later than normal this year, the Last Blast of Summer Christian musical festival at DelGrosso's Amusement Park Sept. 4 truly is a last blast of summer.
When the event originated 13 years ago, most schools didn't start until after Labor Day, so George Palmer, founder and president of FrontLine Ministries, the organizer of the event, thought "Last Blast of Summer" was a perfect name.
"Originally that was a great name. We called it the Last Blast of Summer on purpose. Here's one last shot before school starts. It's one last little jolt of summertime. Back then, it seemed like it made sense to do it then and call it that," Palmer said.
The free all-day event features Christian music artists and entertainers, including Leeland at 7 p.m., Jimmy Needham at 3 p.m. and 321 Comedy Improv at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m.
"We'd had some of the best Christian artists in the country since we started years ago," Palmer said. "We're doing that again this year. We take pride in finding the up and comers."
Leeland, a Christian rock band formed in 2004 and nominated for three Grammy and eight Dove awards, will perform at 7 p.m.
The group has produced three albums, including "Sound of Melodies," "Opposite Way" and "Love is on the Move." Its fourth project, "The Great Awakening," will be released Sept. 20.
Among the newcomers to be featured at the event is Needham, who lives in Texas with his wife, Kelly, and 7-month-old daughter, Lively.?He describes his music as soul pop. The 25-year-old Christian musician has been compared to various mainstream artists, although he feels his music is original.
"Ultimately, I'm always about only one thing and it's the promotion of the name of Jesus Christ," Needham said.
Needham has never been to DelGrosso's, but he has family in Pittsburgh, and he often plays at amusement parks.
"We do a lot of shows in those types of environments. There's something really nice about the atmosphere that families bring," Needham said.
"I'm excited to play all sorts of spreads of music with hopefully the end goal being that people are more impressed with God than with me."
Needham said his fans are normally 18- to 34-year-olds.
And although and youth groups are expected to converge on the park in busloads, Last Blast of Summer is usually a big draw for families too.
Carl Crispin, one of three comedians with 321 Comedy Improv, said interacting with different age groups at Last Blast makes the show fun.
"It's all clean. The fun part with me is interacting with the audience. What happens on stage is coming directly from the crowd and what they're thinking about on that particular day and whatever's going on in their lives," Crispin said. It is the group's fourth appearance at the event.
"The line is really blurred between who's on stage and who's off stage. The funniest person in the show is sometimes someone in the crowd," he said.
Although comedians, Crispin and Matt Cramer, both of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Mike Domeny of Birmingham, Ala., don't reference the Bible during the show, Crispin will often will talk about his journey with Christ.
"We're all Christian guys. It's not Christian comedy. We don't have any church or religious content in our show," Crispin said. "But we talk about where we come from and the idea of happiness versus true everlasting joy through a relationship with Jesus Christ."
In addition to the free comedy routines and concerts, attendees can purchase tickets for the rides and water park.
Ride tickets can be obtained in advance from FrontLine Ministries at a discounted price by calling Palmer at 684-1515. DelGrosso's donates a number of tickets to FrontLine, which in turn sells them at low prices.
The money raised goes to Frontline, which has various missions, such as helping local families, troubled teens, addicts and prisoners.
"I work with at-risk people," Palmer said.
The Last Blast of Summer is a way to support FrontLine ministries and have a great time, he said.