Escape To The Lake is UTR’s flagship summer retreat and my (Dave’s) personal favorite week of the year. I love the community, the camaraderie, the joy, the sense of accomplishment, and the music… WOW the music! I left this event physically exhausted, but spiritually and emotionally filled to overflowing.
This year was not business-as-usual as we were trying some different things…. like a church venue instead of a campground, shortening the event one full day, running all the meal times in-house, having a designated artist focused on leading worship in the mornings, and having attendees find/choose their own lodging. We are still processing the pros and cons of all these changes. However, the biggest factor in most of the changes were financial in nature. On that front, we went from losing $10,000 of proceeds last year to being “in the black” for the first time in 3 years. A very crucial victory in creating sustainability.
The 2018 festivities kicked off with the ETTL Songwriters Bootcamp, a time for creativity, collaboration, inspiration, and personal development for songwriters at any level. These sessions were led by the amazing panel of Christa Wells, Nick Flora, Jess Ray, Caroline Cobb, Matthew Clark, & Taylor Leonhardt. And as a very special treat, we all went off site to a mini-mansion that the Hines Family rented to hang out and enjoy the “Epic In The Round Concert.”
The main ETTL festivities kicked off with our first ever “opening concert” featuring Nick Flora, The Promise is Hope, Rick Lee James, & Luke and Emily. I also gave my first ever fake TED Talk (including exactly 100 PowerPoint slides). We watched Nick Flora (and teammate Jennifer Bast) win the ETTL Game Show [Nick’s 3rd victory]. And we capped the first official night with main stage performances by Caroline Cobb, Adam Whipple, The Mosleys, Matthew Clark, Taylor Leonhardt, Jess Ray, & Christa Wells.
Day 2 started with worship by Brothers McClurg and a devotional message by Matthew Clark. The rest of the daytime hours consisted of a live podcast, a living room concert, free time, and a fantastic open mic time with the folks from this community. The final evening concert had performances by Nick Flora, Wild Harbors, Royce Lovett, Andrew Osenga, & The Zach Pietrini Band.
Day 3 was really just the final 3 hours of the event, but a really significant time with worship, communion, reflections from the community, and a closing in-the-round performance from five of the ETTL artists.
It was a really fantastic time seeing returning friends, UTR supporters, some of the world’s finest songwriters, and making several brand new friends. I am aware that there are a lot of factors that go into making an event successful / relevant / valuable – thus I had my antenna on high alert as I gauged all the changes that were a part of our 2018 gathering. I’m happy to report that the ethos (the heart & soul) of the ETTL gathering – including its ministry value – were just as present as ever. This was the most important walkaway for me – that even in the midst of several changes (including the venue) – the community that has been built is just as strong, authentic, and vibrant as ever.
FEEDBACK FROM PARTICIPANTS:
- “ETTL is one of the core places I go to find ‘my people.’ It’s been so valuable and sweet to have this time. I think ‘friendship’ is one of the main words I would associate with this event.” – Matthew Clark [2018 Artists/Speaker]
- “It has been a great time connecting with the ETTL family. God has blessed me again!” – Chris Toronjo [Attendee from Texas]
- “I was moved to tears several times through songs. It’s a lovely place …I feel loved and accepted here. I met several new friends from around the world, too.” – Amy Hines [Attendee from Ohio]
- “I feel very blessed and refreshed from our time together at ETTL 2018. I believe God is doing a great thing in the journey of UTR Media and it’s great to see how all the artists are are a special part of that too.” – Rick Lee James [2018 Artist/Speaker]
- “Fantastic! I love seeing our kids excited about music and the stories behind the songs. We appreciate the artists at ETTL being so authentic and willing to share their stories. Thank you for doing what you do! – Michele Gasaway [Attendee from Missouri]