“It’s an experience of togetherness. At the end of the evening, you can really feel the presence of God,” said Sandy Martinson, longtime Cloquet volunteer. “The feast is prayed for a year.”

Leah Monson of Duluth prays to the music of Bethany Worship in Cloquet during Wood City Music Festival on Saturday, August 14, 2021. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Martinson is one of many who have volunteered at the free festival since it started in 2014. She started out helping in the bouncy castles, and when her children were old enough they all worked together on the popcorn machine. She has occupied the merchandise tent for the past three years.

It’s a great place to meet like-minded people and love one another, said Martinson.

The last time the Kingdom Builders Ministry Board and Ministers hosted the festival in 2019, they relied on the help of around 300 volunteers. This year they got about half as much help.

BEFORE Cloquet’s Wood City Music Festival is underway

“People step in where there is a need,” said Martinson.

People come from all over to attend, help and perform at the festival. Some drove as far as the Grand Marais and the Twin Cities to help, said Cloquet’s Brian Smith.

Cassidy Rardin (right) from Brainerd dances with her mother Theresa Rardin from Brainerd during the Wood City Music Festival in Cloquet on Saturday, August 14, 2021.  Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Cassidy Rardin (right) from Brainerd dances with her mother Theresa Rardin from Brainerd during the Wood City Music Festival in Cloquet on Saturday, August 14, 2021. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Smith, another longtime volunteer and former founding member of the Kingdom Builders Ministry Board, said running the festival had been an “act of faith” from day one. Smith was part of the multi-church prayer group in which one member heard a call to start a music festival. No one had ever booked a band and cooked food for a crowd before, let alone it was all free to the public.

Now with seven festivals under the belt of the board of directors, Smith recalled a previous year when expenses outweighed fundraising for the festival, with a budget typically in excess of $ 65,000.

“It was amazing, the heartache of it, but we kept doing it,” he said.

Volunteers Brian Smith (left) and Jim Rogers, both from Cloquet, take a moment to attend the Wood City Music Festival in Cloquet on Saturday, August 14, 2021.  Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Volunteers Brian Smith (left) and Jim Rogers, both from Cloquet, take a moment to attend the Wood City Music Festival in Cloquet on Saturday, August 14, 2021. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Festival organizers and volunteers have received confirmation to continue the festival for the second year, Smith said when it was expected to rain as dark storm clouds swarmed the entire area … except the area above the park.

“At the end of the night I went back and looked at the sky. There were lightning bolts in every direction I looked, but it was crystal clear right above us,” said Smith. “It was undoubtedly an act of God. That’s why we didn’t stop even when we were thousands of dollars in debt.”

Cloquet volunteer Jim Rogers occupied the information desk. He said the festival is an expression of faith and empowering people to bring something to the community so that everyone can enjoy it.