Even politicians are popular at huge Christian music fest

By Jon Stokes

When politicians draw crowds to rival those of the country's top musicians you know you're not at just any music festival.

Yet that was the case at the Parachute Music Festival yesterday with politicians, including National deputy leader Bill English and the Greens' Sue Bradford, packing Hamilton's Mystery Creek main pavilion with more than 5000 listeners jammed in eager to hear their political pitch.

Then again it may have just been the chance to escape the searing midday sun, and a quiet spell in the musical line-up, that had festival-goers by the thousands warmly applauding the centre-right soothing of Mr English.

And it was not just politicians jockeying with top performers including Central Auckland's Nesian Mystic, American Christian band Thousand Foot Krutch and Dave Dobbyn for the biggest crowds.

American TV evangelist Joyce Meyer also attracted big crowds. Organisers said the charismatic preacher, named by Time magazine as one of of the United States' most influential evangelical leaders, proved a big hit.

More than 25,000 had passed through the gates of the four-day Parachute festival by noon yesterday, with organisers expecting numbers to pass the 30,000 mark by last night.

The event, into its 16th year, is pitched as the one of the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

It continues to draw record crowds, a result organisers credit to the continued strength of performers attracted to the event.

Nesian Mystik pulled big crowds on Friday with US band The Lads and Kiwi band Spacifix proving popular among the mainly teenage crowd on Saturday.

Helen Brazek, 14, of Lower Hutt, said it was the first time she had attended the event, adding Wellington hip hop band Rapture Ruckus had been the top performers to date. Fellow youth group member Ashleigh Shearer, 14, however favoured Nesian Mystic.

Ashleigh said it was her second year at the popular festival, with the safe and friendly atmosphere being the biggest draw.

"It is safe and friendly. You can walk around at night without worrying about getting mugged."

Hundreds of tents have been erected at the Mystery Creek showgrounds with the heat and ceaseless sun proving the only discomfort for revellers.

Event spokeswoman Tanya Cathro said extra shade covers had to be erected with the water spray tent proving popular. Teams of volunteers walked around offering suntan lotion packs.

Tony Farr, of Hunua, said it was the first time he had attended the event. "It is huge, I didn't realise it was so big."

He said it may be time for organisers to consider a different location for the event, with long queues at some of the amenities proving the only turn-off for those in attendance.

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