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Guided by faith, music
Atlanta Fest brings together Christian bands, seminars and teen-friendly activities
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Casting Crowns will perform Saturday at Atlanta Fest, a three-day Christian music festival held at Stone Mountain.

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Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, talks about coming to Atlanta Fest with his youth group and what it's like for him to now perform at the event.

Atlanta Fest, a three-day Christian music festival in its 22nd year, will bring more than 90 artists and speakers to five stages at Stone Mountain this weekend.

Bob Thompson, festival director of Atlanta Fest, said that's the highest number of artists they've ever had.

Headliners include Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp and TobyMac. But the main stage will be host to many other well-known Christian artists and speakers as well.

For Mark Hall, Atlanta Fest is a special event. Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns and youth group pastor at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, said he has been bringing youth groups to the event for years.

"I've been taking teenagers to Atlanta Fest for years, I mean, for a long time," Hall said. "My co-youth pastor now, Reagan Farris, ... when he was in the eighth and ninth grade I was packing 'em in the van and taking 'em to Atlanta Fest. I thought that was the coolest thing we did every year."

Now Hall and the rest of Casting Crowns are performing for what he thinks is the fifth time at Atlanta Fest. Their performance Saturday night near the close of the event will be interactive, with song lyrics projected on a screen. Concertgoers will also hear the stories behind many of the songs.

"(Concertgoers will) get to hear us just sharing about what God's doing in our lives. It's like going to church but louder," Hall said.

The festival includes many other events focusing on faith and accountability, according to Thompson. Various stages will hold Bible studies, speakers and even relationship seminars.

The Grove stage will be host to WinShape Marriage, part of the nonprofit WinShape Foundation established by Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, and will present speaker Jeff Fry sharing about marriage and relationships.

The main stage speakers will also present a slightly more intimate seminar.

"This is an opportunity instead of hearing the speaker in a setting of thousands, you can hear the main stage speaker in a setting of a few hundred," Thompson said. "So there's more interaction and more questions and answers and that kind of thing."

There will also be a short film, "The Making of Miss HIV," featuring interviews with members of the Newsboys and previewing a full-length movie coming out this summer about a beauty pageant in Africa that features AIDS patients.

"The purpose of this beauty pageant is to help reduce the stigma among African men of basically that people with HIV are unlovely, unlovable," Thompson said. "It really is a very poignant and touching movie."

But there will be plenty of fun and games as well.

The G-Force extreme games will include a climbing rock wall, jousting contest, fun house, mechanical bull and inflatable games aimed at teenagers. There will also be a skateboard and scooter exhibition.

In recent years the festival has been held at Six Flags, but Thompson said it was moved this year to Stone Mountain to allow for camping, an aspect of the festival that has been missing since Six Flags closed its campground.

The events begin at 9 a.m. and last until 1 a.m. Tickets can be ordered online and printed at home or purchased at the gate.

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