The River Oak Grace Amphitheater will once again be alive with music from visiting musicians. On Friday, July 31 River Oak Grace Community Church will host Canadian Christian Rock group Hawk Nelson as they present the beginning of the 2015 Concert Series. Other bands scheduled to perform are I Am They on Aug.t 29 and Sanctus Real, Sept. 25. Tickets for the first and third performances in the series are $10 per person in advance or $15 per person at the gate. I Am They will be a love offering event.
It has been 12 years since the church on the hill has opened its gates to thousands for an evening of music in the community. It’s an event which many still recall hearing as the band’s music would echo over the Stanislaus River, a fact not lost on new Senior Pastor and driving force Korey Buchanek.
“When I came and they started talking to me about becoming the new Senior Pastor, there were a lot of different conversations about the heritage of the church,” Buchanek said. “Things that mattered to them. Things that really kind of identified who they were, that really they had not done in quite some time.”
The concert series was among them. Buchanek shared at the time of the conversation it was not the intent that this would be the year it would be brought back in such a major way, but then things changed.
“When we realized the drummer for Hawk Nelson (David Niacaris) grew up playing drums in our church and our childhood education director … it’s her brother,” the pastor noted, “it then just said, hey if we’re going to bring in a band like Hawk Nelson, why don’t we ask the question, do we want to bring the series back as a whole?”
In just 10 weeks since taking the helm as Senior Pastor, Buchanek has rallied the team to not just bring back the concert series, but return it to what attendees remember.
“Every one of our staff members have played a key part,” he said of the concert series resurrection. “It’s not just been me at all. Everyone that has a role here has just really worked at a high level. We’ve put in probably more hours than most of us are used to.
“They’re hearing very clearly from me, if we can’t do it with excellence we don’t do it.”
It was a team decision to take the leap of faith and bring back the series now.
“We all sat around a table one afternoon, the entire staff, and asked the question … can we do this with excellence?” he continued. “And they all looked at me with wide eyes and said, we think we can. So with that we began to just have really intentional conversations and it really took off from there.”
The new pastor stated that in much of his travel through the small town and interaction with community members, he encountered mention of the past concert series, noting the church was definitely known for this event throughout the community.
“When Pastor Korey first came on, he asked us, what has gone unutilized that we have here?” staff member Kate Davidson of Graphics and Communication said. “Well, of course our amphitheater, it’s one of the unique things that we do have that we can reach our community with. Ever since we’ve stopped the concerts, we’ve heard when are you bringing the concerts back? We just didn’t have the man power.”
The duo shared in bringing back the series, they wanted to ensure the venue is family friendly and encourage attendees to make it a family event. Gates will open at 5 p.m. to best serve the open seating venue. Concert will begin at 7 p.m.
House of Beef will be on hand, as well as Mountain Mike’s to offer refreshments and bounce houses will be brought in to entertain children.
“We’re trying to encourage people to buy their tickets online,” Davidson said. “It’s only $10 online and $15 at the gate and that will be cash only.”
As a special treat Biff Gore from Season 6 of the Voice will open for Hawk Nelson at the July 31 concert. Proceeds from the events will be used directly to cover the overhead and pay the artists.
“We’ve made a significant investment,” the pastor said. “We don’t anticipate seeing a profit. We want to do this for the community.”
For additional information or to purchase tickets visit www.riveroakconcertseries.com.
“I think the first performance is just a touch point on what I want for the future,” Buchanek stated. “It has to do with what I want River Oak Grace to be known for. A place where families can be strengthened, where families can be united in a way that not just grows the life of River Oak Grace, but strengthens the life of Oakdale and the surrounding communities.
“So for me to tell other churches and ask them to tell their people about it (the concert), this isn’t just a River Oak Grace conversation. This is about those that play a part in the body of Christ and giving us an opportunity to come together for one purpose.”