Rob Roozeboom at RiseFest 2019

Rise Ministries president and founder Rob Roozeboom speaks to the audience at RiseFest 2019 in Sheldon on Saturday night, June 22. 

SHELDON—RiseFest, the annual two-day Christian music event held in Sheldon, won’t be held for the first time in a decade.

Rob Roozeboom, president and founder of Rise Ministries of Sheldon, which sponsors RiseFest, confirmed the news with The N’West Iowa REVIEW before making the official announcement today (Thursday, July 16).

The festival originally was set June 19-20 then pushed back to Sept. 4-5 due to the coronavirus pandemic; however, as case numbers continue to climb, Roozeboom said they had to make a decision on what to do.

“It is probably one of the most agonizing decisions we’ve had to make in a really long time,” he said. “There have been countless weeks, hours, months of prayer, conversations, meetings of trying to figure out how do we adapt the festival, make it a little bit different and it just came down to, after all of those conversations, watching trends, listening to counsel, meeting with the board and other committees that the best option is to postpone until 2021.

“As hard as that decision is, it’s probably for the best for the circumstances that we are in. It does not come lightly, it has been extremely hard — it’s still painful for me to even announce it.”

Among the headliners scheduled for this year were Newsboys United, Jeremy Camp and Big Daddy Weave.

Refunds for tickets and campground reservations will be issued by request for a limited period that Rise Ministries has yet to announce; however, Roozeboom also said people can opt to allow the ministry to keep those expenses and consider it a donation to RiseFest’s new stage.

A permanent stage was built for the festival this year and the $500,000 structure is 41-feet high and occupies 4,000 square feet.

The last time RiseFest did not take place was in 2010 when the organizers opted out of hosting it that year to better prepare for the next as the then 5-year-old festival started becoming more popular and drawing larger crowds.

In 2012, the event moved to Sheldon and was held at the Sheldon Crossing on the intersection of highways 18 and 60 before moving to a 33.5-acre plot in 2014 that served as a temporary home for RiseFest until 2019 when it was gifted to the ministry.

Throughout its 15-year history, RiseFest has been able to overcome numerous challenges, most of which have been weather-related.

In 2013, a storm resulted in the cancellation of some Friday night activities and delayed Saturday’s festivities by 50 minutes.

In 2014, the second day of the festival was moved indoors to the Northwest Iowa Lifelong Learning and Recreation Center on the campus of Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon due to heavy downpours.

In 2016, 50-mph straight-line winds ripped portions of the stage apart and a thunderstorm pounded the festival grounds on the first day of the event. The storm caused several tents to collapse, knocked over nearly every portable toilet on the grounds and forced bands to leave their equipment on the stage. The Newsboys, the Friday night headliner, had to cancel their show.

Despite this, organizers and volunteers were able to host the second day of the show without a hitch.

In 2017, a storm early Saturday evening caused a delay of about an hour and forced a few speakers, including Roozeboom, to cut short their presentations. However, the show went on, with headliner TobyMac performing his complete set.

While the festival has been able to power through in the past, Roozeboom noted it came down to organizers feeling like they would not be able to meet the same standards of past RiseFests given the circumstances.

“We tried many different approaches but it came down to that we don’t believe we can give the same experience that festivalgoers are used to with a modified version of the festival,” he said. “There was just risk involved — just financial risk, there’s health risk, there’s all kinds of risk — and it seemed like the risk far outweighed the answer of being able to move forward.”

Roozeboom noted many other large events canceled this year and some other notable scraps include the Iowa State Fair and Clay County Fair.

“I’ve never had to watch our team punt before but that’s what it comes down to; we’ve got to punt this time,” Roozeboom said.

“Our team is resilient — they’re strong — this region is resilient and strong, but RiseFest is about blessing a community and an area and if we feel we are going to put people in a predicament that’s not a blessing then the best answer is to punt and come back stronger in 2021.”