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Published: Saturday, 8/19/2006

Michigan dance music festival is positive draw for young

Christian performers Sheltershed will present their DJ-led show that blends techno, dance, and other sounds at the festival, which begins Friday. Christian performers Sheltershed will present their DJ-led show that blends techno, dance, and other sounds at the festival, which begins Friday.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The inaugural Clover Festival, billed as the first Christian dance festival in the United States and the largest in the world, begins Friday and will feature three days of dance music on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay.

Among the 60 DJs and artists scheduled to perform Friday through Aug. 27 at the free festival are Shiloh, Eddie Fowlkes, Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, and Joy Electric.

"If you think you have an idea of Christianity, shake it up. And if you think you have an idea of what Christian music is, shake that up, too," said Telo Dunne, festival spokesman.

"This is 2006 and a lot of things are going on. Kids don't have to get in trouble. They can have a festival just like all the other festivals and have something to feel good about," Ms. Dunne said in an interview with The Blade this week. "We want to tap into that."

She acknowledged that some conservative Christian groups that do not condone dancing have criticized the Clover Festival, but organizers believe the event offers a positive alternative to secular dance festivals and all-night "raves," or dance parties, that are so popular with youths.

Dance performer Roy Davis, Jr., will appear at the festival. Dance performer Roy Davis, Jr., will appear at the festival.

"Everybody has their own beliefs. We're really trying to say that, for us, this is a positive event," Ms. Dunne said. "We want to produce a good event and show people that this music and its background and its meaning are a lot deeper than the rave scene. We try to stay away from political things and just bring people together who want to have a global dance party with a greater purpose - and to have some fun."

It was not an easy festival to organize, she added.

Traverse City officials did not give the go-ahead until six weeks ago, which hampered efforts to book artists and get the word out.

Further complicating their efforts, last week's foiled terrorist plot in the United Kingdom caused transportation problems that make one of the festival's headliners, Andy Hunter, questionable for his scheduled Friday night performance.

"We had a short amount of time to do something that usually takes a much longer time, so it's been hard," Ms. Dunne said.

Originally planned as a paid-admission event, the delays forced organizers to opt for a free-admission festival. Ms. Dunne said corporate sponsors have covered many of the expenses and that all artists are being paid.

The Clover Festival is the brainchild of Carol Marvin, producer of the renowned DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival). She plans to turn it into an annual event on the weekend before Labor Day.

The festival's name is a reflection of the three-leaf clover that symbolizes the Holy Trinity.

The stated mission of the fest is "connecting and energizing the spirits of young adults through the power of Christ and an exciting experience of life-inspiring dance, music, art, fashion, electronics, games, activities and entertainment interests which are important to global youth and dance music culture."

There will be five staging areas in the bay-front park in downtown Traverse City, the same venue where the city's National Cherry Festival is held each year. The park can accommodate up to 15,000 people a day, Ms. Dunne said.

Updates and information on the Clover Festival are available online at www.cloverfestival.com or by calling 313-831-3500.

- David Yonke

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