La PORTE — The public is invited to a three-day celebration of food, fellowship, fun and faith — for free — later this month.

The ninth annual Fellowship Fest will take place Friday through Sunday, Aug. 16-18, at Pioneerland, located on the La Porte County Fairgrounds, 2581 Ind. 2, La Porte. The event will feature a full slate of events and activities, including live Christian music, auctions and prize drawings, food and more.

Festivities will kick off from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday. Guests can enjoy free food while listening to the tunes of the four bands slated to perform during the "coffeehouse" themed evening.

The event continues from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, with seven Christian bands lined up to perform throughout the day. Other festivities will include a 5K walk/run at 8 a.m., a "Blessing of the Bikes" ride around La Porte at 10 a.m. and a live martial arts demonstration at 2 p.m.

Guests are encouraged to bring their appetites, as well. Organizers will be serving a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m., followed by the popular chili cookoff at noon. At 6 p.m., there will be a sauerkraut and sausage dinner.

Other events taking place on Saturday include a silent auction from noon to 5 p.m., which will feature more than 100 donated items. Horse-drawn wagon rides, kids' games and more will be offered throughout the day as well.

The festival concludes on Sunday, with a church service beginning at 10 a.m., followed by lunch. At 12:30 p.m., organizers will host a free drawing, where visitors can win a plethora of prizes, including a free photography session and a one-hour airplane ride. 

True to event's motto of "prepaid in full," nearly everything the three-day event will offer is free to visitors, said organizer and founder Mike Altman. 

The only time guests will need to whip out their wallets is if they choose to register for the 5K walk/run or bid on items during the silent auction. Both the activities serve as fundraisers for future festivals.

Everything else taking place that weekend — the music, the food, the activities — is gratis, Altman said.

Altman, a longtime lover of Christian music, created Fellowship Fest nine years ago as a way to share the sounds of spiritual tunes with the community, he said. Starting as a one-day event, it has since grown in size, both in terms of days and attendance.

"It's like a family reunion," Altman said. "A lot of the same people come every year, and it keeps growing from there."

Nearly a dozen musical acts, spanning several genres, will appear during the three-day festival, including the Michigan City-based Blud Bros, local pastor and singer Roscoe Hoffman, and the Cross Connection, a worship band with The Presbyterian Church of La Porte. Featured performers from outside the local area include Risen Music, of Flint, Michigan, and Among the Survivors, of Bloomington, Indiana.

Nearly 40 volunteers are pitching in to help run this year's Fellowship Fest, which organizers have spent the past six months preparing for, Altman said. Those helping with the event will wear a red T-shirt that sports the event's motto, "Prepaid in Full," splashed across a drawing of a white cross.

Altman took the phrase — a reference to how Jesus died for humanity's sins — from a sermon he attended some years back, he said. Just as how humanity's sins are "prepaid," so too are the costs for guests who attend the festival. 

"We believe that if one person is helped...all the work, all the labor we've put into this is worth it," he said.

With plenty of family-friendly tunes and activities lined up on the docket, Altman hopes to see the fairgrounds full of guests later this month.

"If you've never been, you don't know what you're missing," he said.

Those interested in learning more about Fellowship Fest can call (219) 851-2383 or visit FellowshipFest.org.

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