Switchfood will perform at Rock the Universe this weekend.

Switchfood will perform at Rock the Universe this weekend. (Courtesy, Universal Orlando)

9-11, as horrendous as it was, won’t be the only theme of the week: Orlando-area theme parks will host their two blockbuster Christian music festivals on Friday and Saturday.

For Walt Disney World, it will be the annual Night of Joy. As with past years, Disney isn’t skimping on the talent, lending iconic symbols like the Cinderella Castle as stage backdrops.

Performers will include Christian rock veterans Newsboys, with dcTalk vet Michael Tait as front man. Singing separately will be fellow dcTalk alum TobyMac, continuing the former group's rapcore style.

Others at Night of Joy will be alternate-rock group Skillet and Jars of Clay, one of the few Christian groups to cross over to general airplay. Also scheduled are rapcore vet TobyMac and praise rockers MercyMe there. Other genres represented will include pop star Francesca Battistelli, hip-hoppers Group 1 Crew, and gospel singer Marvin Sapp.

Not bad for a park that some Christians, Florida Baptists, once tried to boycott for allowing Gay Days there. There’s even a Night of Joy Facebook page.

Advance tickets are $51.95 per day before the day of each event, $59.95 afterward. Two-night tickets are $92.95. All prices don’t include tax.

The 9-11 anniversary will, however, be remembered at Universal Orlando, where Rock the Universe will be held the same two nights.

Speaking will be two survivors of the terrorist attacks a decade ago: retired Navy captain Tom Joyce, who was at the Pentagon that day; and Sujo John, who worked on the 81st floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center. Also there will be Christian youth speaker Jay Strack.

But Rock the Universe will keep its splashy style, with 17 acts planned. The lineup includes rockers Switchfoot and Casting Crowns, plus Relient K and Third Day. Other notables will include hip-hop group Rhema Soul and praise band Tenth Avenue North, both formed in South Florida.

Sunday will bring the park's traditional post-festival worship services, at 8:30, 9:45 and 10:45 a.m. Speaker will be Jeff Pratt, director of LifeWay Student Training and Events in Nashville. Singing will be the Seth Medley Band of Chattanooga.

Tickets to Rock the Universe are $51.99 per night or $84.99 for both nights. Again, the amounts don’t include tax.


James D. Davis