RIDGE MANOR — Youth pastor Matt Nix says that Fire Fest 2009 will fan the flames of those who have a relationship with Christ and light a fire in those who don't.
"We're hoping the event will reach out to the community and maybe the individuals who don't go to church on a regular basis," Nix said.
The free event, which begins at 11 a.m. today at Ridge Manor Community Methodist Church, will feature several bands, a bounce house, a dunk tank and face painting.
Church member Phil Moeller, a former Atlantic City magician, will emcee the event. "He has some tricks up his sleeve that are in keeping with the 'fire' title of our event," Nix said.
Brian Brijbag, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Brooksville, will open the event with a prayer and an inspirational message. Debbie Nelson, pastor at the host church, will give a message at concert's end.
Food will be available for purchase from local vendors and from the United Methodist Men and Women from the church.
"It's for all ages," Nix said, "for little kids up to adults."
Nix said there have been a lot of generous people who helped make this event possible.
"Fujimo Transport is bringing in a 40-foot semitrailer for us to use as a stage at no charge. All the funds for the sound system that we are renting and the sound tech to run it came from fundraisers."
Bands and entertainers that will be performing Christian music include Ciara Brittany, Focused, Kelly Kelz, Between Bibles and Backpacks, Legacy, Final Moment, My Brother's Scars, Anzil and Andrew Martinet.
Each band will have a tent set up so members can talk with guests and sign autographs. They will also have CDs available for purchase.
Nix, 31, said the ages of band members are from the mid-30s and younger. They will play contemporary, hip hop and rock music.
"The main focus with the style of bands and type of music that each band plays is trying to draw in the younger crowd," Nix said. "The 12 to 18 crowd are at the highest risk for becoming involved with alcohol or drugs or getting into the wrong scene, where I spent 20 years of my life."
Nix, who said he spent time in Hernando County Jail in 2005 and later at a Sarasota drug rehabilitation center, said he wishes there had been something in Hernando County like this concert when he was young.
"There was nothing (here) that grabbed my attention," he said. "I had that mentality that going to church was for old people that want to sing out of a book. I liked hip hop and rock and rap and nothing that I had ever seen when I was in my childhood appealed to me as far as music at church."
It was when Nix was in prison that his life took a turn.
"I said, 'There's got to be something better in life than doing drugs and running around town and acting crazy.' I started being able to go to a chapel service and was able to get in contact with Christ."
Nix was also influenced by a Christian motorcycle group that visited the jail. "Those guys had stories like mine," he said, "I really connected with them."
Nix told God that whether he got him out of jail or not, he would devote his life to working for him.
"It was within a few months that I was released into the drug treatment facility. I knew I wanted to straighten out my life and I knew I wanted to do things right."
When a man at the facility talked about his ministry, Nix was hooked on something new. "He said his passion was to try to grab kids before they got to where he was at. I knew I wanted to do that, too."
Nix decided to learn more about the Bible and how to teach it to others. Soon he was asked to lead a Bible study class at the treatment facility. Then he was hired as a producer for the facility's ]television show. Next he was asked to be their assistant youth pastor.
"This was in a time frame of about a year," Nix said. "Those were major steps going from being a drug addict to a youth pastor."
When Nix was released from the rehabilitation program, he came back to Brooksville and talked to Pastor Nelson and accepted a position at the church. He's been the youth pastor there for a little over a year.
Nix hopes the event today will draw about five times more people than the 150 the church usually draws for its fall festival.
"We want to open their eyes that church is not just sitting in a pew and listening to somebody talk for an hour," he said. "There are fun activities like this concert and the music doesn't just come from hymnals."