Pastor Kent Ferrin never anticipated how large the annual patriotic event hosted by his Rocklin church would end up growing.
For the inaugural event in 2009, 6,000 people turned out. Destiny Christian Church intended to fill the void in a community fireworks show left when Rocklin slashed funds for its annual jubilee – a tradition stretching back to 1969 – in the wake of budget cuts.
Attendance at the event, titled Celebrate America, has steadily crept up every year since. An estimated 10,000 people attended the next year, and 12,000 in 2011.
Last year, to accommodate even larger numbers, the church decided to expand the celebration, holding two identical performances on consecutive days. A combined 30,000 people showed up those two days to watch a Navy SEAL parachuter, "American Idol" alum Danny Gokey and a fireworks show.
"I don't think there was anybody who could have predicted that (turnout)," said Ferrin, a creative arts director at the church.
And that number may reach new heights this weekend.
The event is being held once again at Twin Oaks Park, with productions on Saturday and Sunday. Word-of-mouth, a greater marketing push and promotional help from corporate sponsor Fox40 (KTXL) might mean attendance meets – or exceeds – last year's benchmark, Ferrin said.
Greg Fairrington, senior pastor at Destiny Christian Church, said he agrees.
"I just think as the word gets out, this is going to be one of the leading events in the Sacramento region," Fairrington said.
Many of the main attractions are mainstays from past years, such as the Navy SEALs, a patriotic musical featuring scenes from American history and an encore performance by Gokey, a country and Christian artist, who was the Season 8 second runner-up on "American Idol."
There will also be several additions to the event's lineup. The night's firework show will be choreographed to music, and there will be a video tribute to developer Buzz Oates, who is also Fairrington's father-in-law. Oates is being honored for his World War II military service, as well as his service to the community, according to Fairrington.
At the event, Destiny Christian plans to announce that it will be a third location for the Sophia's Heart Foundation – a charitable organization started by Gokey in memory of his wife, Sophia Martinez.
According to its website, Sophia's Heart intends to "help mend and heal the hearts of children and families who have been touched by poverty, sickness, broken homes and broken dreams."
In addition, Gokey and Destiny Christian in September will open Sophia's Heart School of the Arts, a nonprofit performing arts school in Rocklin.
Fairrington said Celebrate America is not a church event but intends to celebrate the hope that is at the heart of the American spirit. "That message of hope is really a Christian message too," he said.
"Of course, as a church, we are communicating that there is hope because we believe that God is in the center of our nation," he said. " 'In God Our Trust' is on our money. It's a part of the fabric of who we are as a nation."
Karen Garner, a public affairs and economic growth manager for Rocklin, said the church pays for use of the park and runs the event independently and the city assists with some maintenance and setup.
Before its cancellation, Rocklin's annual jubilee cost the city approximately $134,000 for police, supplies and entertainment.
The church budgeted $55,000 for its celebration in 2010. According to Michelle Coleman, a marketing director for the event, this year's event will cost the church $5,000 to $10,000 less than in 2010 thanks to local corporate sponsorships.
What: Patriotic celebration with music, military presentations, vendors and fireworks show
Where: Twin Oaks Park, 5500 Park Drive, Rocklin
When: Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 4 p.m., entertainment 4:30-10 p.m., fireworks 9:45 p.m.
Cost: Free; $5 unlimited rides in Kids Zone, from 4 to 8 p.m.
Call The Bee's Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.