The former Ichthus Festival site reopened to the public this weekend, redubbed Servant Heart Farm, with a concert that attracted a small fraction of an Ichthus-like audience.
As night fell and Portland-based The Neverclaim took the stage, there were, by a liberal estimate, 100 to 150 people in front of the stage. Servant Heart Farm owner Joe Lycan said, “I believe God will get the people who need to be here, here.” Others said that Lycan and his wife Cheryl were not necessarily trying to replicate the Ichthus Festival, and it is certainly fair to note that Saturday’s concert featuring Disciple was the couple’s first effort at presenting a big event since they bought the property last year, although there have been smaller gatherings at Servant Heart.
But you don’t buy a 111-acre festival site to host coffee shop-size crowds. And part of what made that site a story and a major event year after year was the thousands of people who came to Ichthus.
Clearly, the Lycans want to make a go of it with this property and want to remain relevant. So there are a few things that should be done before the next event.
Get some marketing: Most of the people I talked to Saturday had met Joe Lycan and were impressed with his plans for the place and wanted to support him. It’s great to have a charismatic frontman who gets people on board. But you can’t build events based solely on the people you meet.
I daresay I am pretty connected, and the only things I ever saw about the concert were things I wrote. Social media and marketing are clearly not the Lycans’ thing, but they ought to get someone on their team with marketing savvy who can help get the word out, particularly through free social media avenues, if money is an object.
Watch when you schedule: Saturday was, frankly, a horrible day to attract people to a new event. You had the Blue-White football game at the University of Kentucky, the Rolex Three-Day Event at the Horse Park, events leading up to Derby and scads of other concerts, performances and the like. Maybe most detrimental to the event in Wilmore was the Highbridge Film Festival, one of the biggest events on the Asbury University campus. That alone probably took out a huge part of the potential audience for Servant Heart’s first concert. It’s impossible to avoid everything in Central Kentucky. But before scheduling another event, the Lycans should take a hard look at the area event calendar and try to find a relatively quiet week when they can make some noise.
Book a marquee headliner: With all due respect to Disciple, which is a great band, nothing could do more to make a big public statement that the old Ichthus site is open for business than bringing in an act with a proven track record of drawing thousands based on its name alone. Several people I talked to said they were there just to see Disciple, and apparently the band made a major effort to be there and support the cause. Going back to marketing, had the concert been better publicized, Disciple’s name probably would have attracted more people.
But there probably are many more people who would turn out just to see some of the current chart-toppers or established draws, perhaps Third Day or Switchfoot, or even artists who pulled passionate followings on the Deep End stage and rarely come to Central Kentucky. Time and time again, it has been proven: People come out for artists and shows, not venues and causes.
One thing that was perfect Saturday was the weather. If Servant Heart could keep that going, it would be huge.