Friday, September 6, 2013
Nights of Joy
This weekend is the annual Night of Joy weekend at Walt Disney World. For over 30 years WDW has played host to the best in Christian music in early September. The ticket at the top is from the very first NOJ that I attended in 1994, shortly after we had moved to Kissimmee. You may notice that in those days it lasted for two weekends and had the same artists every night. Now it only two nights, with different artists each night. But it still includes many of the very best acts that Christian music has to offer.
I would attend NOJ with a number of youth groups over the 12 years that followed that first visit, and I have many great memories attached to the event. From Kissimmee, we would go for just one night. Later, I would get us rooms at WDW and the groups would spend the weekend, which also included early admission to the MK. It was always a great time. I am the first to confess that the majority of the youth I took were not there for the music. They might pause to listen to a song or to watch a particular artist, but most of them were busy on Space Mountain or other such attractions. But for me, the music was the thing!
From my very first NOJ and seeing dc Talk debut Jesus Freak at the castle, I experienced most of my favorite Christian artists in the Magic Kingdom. I sang Breakfast with the Newsboys and heard Michael W. Smith unveil This Is the Time. I heard David Crowder Band, Stellar Kart, the O.C. Supertones and Steven Curtis Chapman. I watched as Jars of Clay performed a thrilling acapella version of World's Apart. I saw Audio Adrenaline work the crowd into a frenzy on many occasions. And the aforementioned dc Talk, and the later Toby Mac as solo artist, were there almost every year. I heard a lot of great music over the years.
That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the attractions as well, and there were non-musical memorable moments over the years as well. Surviving the stampede the the ferry or the monorail in the early years when we were there for just one night was a miracle in and of itself. Riding Splash Mountain and being able to see concert stages all over the park. Having students complain after having been at the Magic Kingdom for 2 hours that they had "already done everything and wanted to go back the rooms and play video games." Sheesh. Riding The Haunted Mansion with people who were actually a little scared- and with my good friend Lisa Jewett, who was not. Being the object of a scavenger hunt by the youth of FUMC-Kissimmee in 2002 after I had left there and moved back to Tampa. In 2004 laughing hysterically when Ken, Travis and Philip from Wesley Memorial UMC tried to sneak out of their room at the All-Star Sports Resort only to lock themselves and have to call me and confess so they could get back in. Helping Lisa plan the 2005 trip even after I had been let go by the church, and having a wonderful time taking Will. Lots and lots of special moments.
I ventured away from NOJ and tried Universal's rival Rock the Universe once (2003). And just once ("my mother made me go to Rock the Universe once, Johnny. ONCE!" If you have ever seen the movie Johnny Dangerously then you are laughing hysterically right now. Trust me.). Before the weekend their customer service was abysmal. I didn't care for the staging and it was very disorganized. Plus there was a hurricane. So yeah...ONCE!
So this weekend I find myself quite envious of those who are spending the weekend at NOJ. I haven't been since 2006 (with the group from Waycross), and I am not sure when I might go back. I am not as "up" on Christian music as I once was, and I know longer know all the artists who are performing. But if I were in charge this year, here's what I would do. Michael Tait is now the lead singer for Newsboys. Kevin Max Smith is not the lead singer for Audio Adrenaline. Toby Mac will be performing as usual. There needs to be a dc Talk reunion, and I am sure Disney could make it happen! Now THAT would be a night of joy! Have a great weekend everyone!
Because of Jesus,