So Much More Than I Expected

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.

Photo by Azuree Witala for

Photo by Azuree Witala for

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?