Fans experience the spirit of the desert at rock concert

The heat turns up, and the sun goes down as fans of bands such as Skillet, Newsboys, and Benjah await the next performance to take the stage at Rock the Desert 2014.

Food trucks and stalls pull in fans to buy hand-crafted goods, band merchandise and food that is not your average fare. Youth groups run around offering free hugs. This goes on well into the next morning.

Rock the Desert is a Christian concert that goes on for three days every year starting the first Thursday of August. Hundreds of fans come with groups of friends or churches to partake in the biggest annual music event in Midland. There is a pond where fans can be baptized during RTD. On the second day, nine people had already been baptized.

RTD normally has 500 volunteers, 250 of whom stay on the grounds 24/7 during the weekend. MC math teacher Barbara Willis and her family have worked as volunteers for Rock the Desert since 1999. She gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the creation of the event that people flock to from states as far away as Washington.

One of Willis’ favorite volunteer stories was about a man named Bob. This man flew out to Midland on business and he saw the land RTD uses filled with volunteers.

He asked what all these people were doing in this desert plot of land. When the volunteers told him about it, he helped them out the entire time he was there and came back with his family to volunteer for the next eight years. He died of cancer a week after his last time at RTD.

For three days of good music, it’s $25. People have the option to camp on site.

A group called Disaster Relief provided free showers to the campers. They provided soap, shampoo, towels, hair dryers and power strips to charge electronics as well.

One of the new additions for RTD 2014 is a skate park. A drum set was available for those willing to show their stuff; it was used by kids as young as eight years old, along with some teens and adults who rocked out to the happy crowd. It is available to rent and is open year round.
Many people came in for the air conditioning, as well as skateboarding and drumming. When it first opened on Aug. 7, four toes were broken, which is why skaters have to sign a waiver.

Thankfully, volunteers with medical experience worked in the medical tent to help skaters and overheated concert-goers. This is Texas in the middle of the summer, and with only tents as shade, the medical tent had quite a few patients who overheated.

Sponsors got a special parking area and a beautiful view from a hill overlooking the crowds. Some donors were especially generous, providing land, equipment, golf carts and so on, but they liked to remain anonymous to the public. Wal-Mart also donated truckloads of drinks and food for RTD.

This musical celebration of Christianity is almost completely put on by volunteer efforts, and the result is very professional. It was amazing to see how all of these strangers banded together to make this happen.

Meeting people from other states and learning about all the organizations that work together to make this happen simply amazed me. There was a vendor from Africa, a motorcycle club, and hundreds of others I didn’t get to meet.

While I went in thinking this was going to be some boring preacher convention, I’m glad to say I was completely wrong. It was fun, even if it wasn’t my normal brand of music.

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