The Cornerstone Farm is filled with memories for me (Becky). Every year, as we roll into Bushnell and turn down the country road, my mind gets filled with happy thoughts – of bands, friends, food, worship, growing up, and more. As we pulled into the grounds Monday evening, I was remembering my first Cornerstone (1998), and thinking about what I expected out of it, and how most of my expectations were completely shattered, in a good way. For those of you reading along at home who have never made it to Cornerstone, maybe this will give you a taste of what it’s like here.
I expected formality & organized camping, like at a state park. I guess I expected things to somehow be strict – with people telling you where you had to camp & park, and maybe even telling you what time you had to go to bed or something. Camping at Cornerstone has a lot to offer – strict organization is not one of those things. And, that’s the beauty of it. Little things like tents set up in every direction, generator stages, and porta-potties covered in band posters somehow illustrates the freedom of Cornerstone for me. That freedom goes far beyond simple things like this, of course, but this is a very present reminder.
I expected the stages to all be outdoors. I know this expectation came from experience with other festivals, where you were guaranteed to burn like toast within the first day. I was so happy to see that Cornerstone stages (all of them other than Main Stage & the unofficial generators) are under the cover of huge tents. I am often thankful for whoever it was who made that decision!
I expected that 99.999% of all attendees would have been from Illinois or Iowa. For my first fest (1998) I drove over with my brother (coming from South Dakota). I figured that there wouldn’t be many people who drove longer than we did. How wrong I was! The grounds are filled with car license plates from Illinois & Iowa, obviously – and other surrounding states. But, you also find people who trekked much further – all across Canada, California, the southeast, around New England, etc. Funny how I had that expectation 11 years ago – but these days, my husband & I are quite happy to drive 1,000 miles+ from our home in Austin, Texas.
I expected people to present a put-the-best-face-on-it, youth-group-approved image. I don’t know that I would have used quite those words back in 1998, but I had the idea that people choosing to spend a week at a Christian festival would own a lot of rather cheesy witnessing t-shirts. I never expected the diversity that actually exists. I never expected to meet people like me, either. I didn’t expect to find so many people who love Jesus so much, and demonstrate it in such clear ways.
I didn’t expect to meet people who would be life-long friends. 11 years later… I’m married to a guy I (mostly) met at Cornerstone. Every Sunday night, we go out to dinner after church with 4 friends made mostly thru the fest. My twitter friends list is filled with Cornerstone-rs (is that a word? I never know what to call us!). I exchange emails, texts, and chats all the time with friends I’ve made here about not just music, but the stuff of real life – from weddings to funerals, from surgeries to new babies, from travel to work stress. I never would have expected for a week-long event in a cornfield in Illinois to have such lasting impact.
I certainly didn’t expect to still be coming back 11 years later. Yet, I’m always glad I do.
For those of you who have been here before, what expectations did you have your first year?