The festival has kept concerts on Wednesday night, this year labeling it a “night of worship.” Tickets for the first evening can also be purchased for $25, and tickets for Wednesday night and Saturday together are available for $40.
“This is a part of what we want to do more and more with this festival — make it more of a festival that is geared toward this region of central Kentucky,” Vermilion said. “I think they’ve always thought if they can’t come out for three or four days, then they can’t have a part of Ichthus; we’re trying to say ‘No, that’s not true anymore.’”
The featured band Wednesday night is Hillsong United, a popular worship band hailing from Australia. Vermilion said the festival has been trying to get Hillsong for years and that the chips fell right this year to make it possible.
“They were touring Europe originally during our dates, and they came back to us and said, ‘Hey, we’ve changed our schedule; we’re going to be in the states during Ichthus. Do you want us to come out?’” he said. “What we did was we took that on Wednesday night and created a night of worship with Hillsong United, because so many people who wouldn’t necessarily come out for the whole festival love Hillsong United, so we wanted to open that experience up for the community, as well.”
Featured bands the other three nights include Chris Tomlin, Matthew West and Anberlin. Vermilion said he is proud that Ichthus has been able to put bands like Friday’s headliners — Skillet and Family Force 5 — on the map and hopes the festival can do the same with the rock group closing out Thursday in Wilmore.
“Over the years, we’ve been the first to put these bands in prominent places in our lineup, and this year, it’s going to be Red, because we really believe in that band, and we really think that they’re going to be one of those bands that we look back and say, ‘We were the first to put them in as a headliner,’” he said.
Red will be debuting a new show featuring pyrotechnics akin to what festival-goers have come to expect from Skillet over the years.
“They’re bringing an absolutely incredible show; they’ve not done anything to this extent before,” Vermilion said. “What we’ve done is we’ve put them on, and they said, ‘We’re going to bring everything out for this; we’re going to bring out lights and smoke and the panels in back,’ and they’re going to bring out a show that they think will be their future show, and they’re gonna launch it at Ichthus.”
In addition to expanding the community night to a whole day, the festival has retained other popular new features from last year, including the “Global Village” that features international social-justice ministries and the Galleria Stage with its “unplugged” feel.
“We’re really excited about the Galleria Stage, because it’s the one sit-down venue in the whole festival grounds, and it’s really a more mature sound, a more singer-songwriter, eclectic, unplugged sound,” Vermilion said. “And for those who really love the finer nuances of music, they’re going to enjoy some of the artists that we’re bringing in, everything from sisters who have these really tight harmonies to some bands who normally might play on the main stage or on other stages, but they’re scaling their music down for that stage, and people are going to get to see a different side of them.”