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Although some people are disheartened by the shorter lineup, plenty are still undeterred, their hearts set on attending. Many concertgoers, Christian or otherwise, consider Cornerstone a staple of their summer routine. Like those who preorder tickets to Bonnaroo or Coachella before their lineups are announced, dedicated patrons of Cornerstone are drawn to an overall experience rather than a collection of specific bands. The festival also features seminars ("Can You Have a Brain and Still Be a Christian?") and art workshops ("Cigar Box/Found Object Guitar Building") alongside a kickball tournament, swimming and something called the Imaginarium that is not actually as magical as it sounds.
Now in its last days, the festival has adopted a sentimental tone. On the website's farewell statement, its organizers said, "Cornerstone 2012 promises to be a time of thankful reflection and sharing among people who've walked this significant part of their life's journey together." For the die-hard Cornerstoners, the end of the festival carries more significance than just one fewer entry on their summer to-do lists. Regardless of one's belief system, Cornerstone was a catalyst for creativity and a safe haven for the curious.
"There is a sense of community at Cornerstone that is difficult to express but very real for those who have attended more than a couple of years," says Winter, who has attended all 29 festivals. "People have told us that Cornerstone is one place where they felt at home, accepted and a part of something bigger than themselves. This is especially true of people who have not felt accepted in traditional church settings — Goths, punks, skater kids, people who are questioning their faith. They come to Cornerstone and feel a sense of community, and that is what I will miss the most."
Although the Jesus People Evangelical Covenant Church is closing down shop in Bushnell, the church plans to open a venue near Wrigley Field to host Christian concerts. If this plan succeeds, it will likely spotlight the same groups who would have appeared on the stages out on the farm.
For Jesus People, the Cornerstone Festival is a form of ministry, and the spirit of the festival will live on through other outreach programs that spread beyond its church walls. Cornerstone may be dead for the time being, but Jesus People have a knack for rebirth.