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Jackie Roberts drove a carload of kids from Florida to a cornfield in the Midwest out of motherly love and because her son wouldn't stop bugging her. After six months of pestering, 15-year-old Brock convinced her that this was the only place he could see his favorite Christian bands. Over 1,000 miles later, Roberts wasn't so sure about the Cornerstone Festival.

Not far from where Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri meet, Roberts, her three kids, a niece, and Brock's best friend passed through Bushnell, Illinois, a quaint farm town of 3,221. Further down a dirt road, they entered the festival gates and the rural scenery changed drastically. The entire car fell silent.

This wasn't the contemporary Christian music scene they expected. Inching through the bustling and dirty festival grounds, the Roberts group—except for an ecstatic Brock—gasped as they passed lines of hippies, punks, Goths, brightly colored Mohawks, and lots of tattoos.

Staring at a half-naked man in a dog collar, Jackie's oldest daughter asked Brock, "What have you gotten us into?"

'The Cacophony Doesn't Bother Them'

Entering Cornerstone's 579-acre camping and festival grounds can be intimidating—and not just because some of the 27,000 people look downright scary. Unlike most paid evangelical events, the 20-year-old Cornerstone relishes chaos. This loosely organized modern-day Woodstock has few rules and even less signage to help you know where you are or what is happening.

The July festival's stock in trade is stimulus overload. Loud music is constant and the visual stimulation is dizzying. All festivals offer multiple events and activities. Cornerstone does them all at once and constantly for five days. Three hundred bands play 11 stages from late morning to early the ...

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