I had fully planned to skip Cornerstone Festival this year and come back in 2013. Truth be told, I was a little burned out after last year with the combination of work stress and the imminent death of my grandmother. When we planned a family trip to Walt Disney World just a few weeks before the festival, I decided maybe it would be a good year to sit out. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time, I skipped 2008 after my girls were born and 2003 and 2005, also.
Then news broke that this would be the last Cornerstone Festival, that the financial burdens had simply become too much to overcome and that there would be one last festival this year and then no more. I was floored. It feels weird talking about the festival like it was the death of a friend, but in some ways that’s how it has felt. I’ve experienced a profound sense of loss over the last week. Talking to some of my friends that I meet there every year, I’m not the only one as they have shared feelings of loss, sleeplessness, and lots of sorrow. Cornerstone has kept me young over the years when everything else forced me to be a responsible grown-up and most of my friends became overwhelmed with the dullness of working jobs and being parents. At least for one week I could still hang out with rock and roll stars, make awkward jokes at the wrong time, and stay up way, way too late.
I always thought that Cornerstone would outlast me. I thought one day I would start taking my girls to the festival and then when I was too old to put up with standing out in the sun or staying up past midnight that they would come home after every July 4th and tell me about the crazy bands and fun times they had. I had hoped one day I would take them there and they would meet older role models, people of strong faith who proved that you could have tattoos, piercings, a rainbow of hair colors and still vibrantly love Jesus. I hoped they would meet peers, friends who cared less about what TV told them was cool and cared more about sitting on a hay-bale under an orange sunset and discussing theology and homecoming dances in the same conversation.
All of that will be gone after this year and what is just a corn field in the middle of Illinois will become just be a corn field in the middle of Illinois for good. So, I’m rearranging my work vacation schedule and scraping together the money and as I say every year, Lord willing, I’m going to Cornerstone. It’s going to be a strange festival this year, with a reduced number of stages and a set of artists that are coming less to promote their newest album and more to pay tribute to a festival that launched and sustained some of their careers. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, if it’s going to be somber and small or if people will come out of the woodwork to go one last time. I do know that I want to go to say goodbye. I want to be there when the last artist says “thank you” and they turn off the speakers and shut off the lights at Cornerstone for the final time. Then the land will lie fallow and slumber with vibrations of music on her soil in her subconscious, dreaming that one day it will return and we’ll wait, hoping the same.