The crowd wasn't as large and the lineup wasn't as long this year at Wood City Music Festival in Cloquet's Veterans Memorial Park, but those who went filled the space with their worship on Saturday.

"It's an experience of togetherness. At the end of the evening you can really feel the presence of God," said longtime volunteer Sandy Martinson, of Cloquet. "The festival is prayed over for a year."

Leah Monson of Duluth prays to the music of Bethany Worship during the Wood City Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Cloquet. 
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Leah Monson of Duluth prays to the music of Bethany Worship during the Wood City Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Cloquet. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Martinson is one of many who have volunteered at the free festival since its start in 2014. She started by helping at the bouncy houses, and when her kids were old enough they all worked the popcorn machine together. For the last three years, she's staffed the merchandise tent.

It's a great place to meet like-minded people, and love on one another, Martinson said.

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The last time the Kingdom Builders Ministry board and ministers hosted the festival, in 2019, they relied on the help of about 300 volunteers. This year they had roughly half as much help.

PREVIOUSLY Cloquet's Wood City Music Festival is a-go

"Where there's a need, people are stepping in," Martinson said.

People come from all over to attend the festival, help out at it and perform. Some drove as far as Grand Marais and the Twin Cities to lend a hand, said Brian Smith, of Cloquet.

Cassidy Rardin (right) of Brainerd dances with her mother, Theresa Rardin, of Brainerd during the Wood City Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Cloquet. 
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Cassidy Rardin (right) of Brainerd dances with her mother, Theresa Rardin, of Brainerd during the Wood City Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Cloquet. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Smith, another longtime volunteer and former original member of the Kingdom Builders Ministry board, said putting on the festival has been an "act of faith" since day one. Smith was part of the multichurch prayer group in which one member heard a call to start a music festival. No one had ever booked a band before and cooked food for a crowd of people, not to mention doing all that at no cost to the public.

Now with seven festivals under the board's belt, Smith recalled an earlier year when the expenses outweighed the donations collected to put on the festival, with a budget that typically lands upward of $65,000.

"It was unbelievable, the heartbreak of it, but we kept doing it," he said.

Volunteers Brian Smith (left) and Jim Rogers, both of Cloquet, take a moment to visit during the Wood City Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Cloquet. 
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Volunteers Brian Smith (left) and Jim Rogers, both of Cloquet, take a moment to visit during the Wood City Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Cloquet. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Festival organizers and volunteers had received confirmation to keep going with the festival in its second year, Smith said, when the event was expected to be rained out as dark storm clouds swarmed the entire area ... except the area above the park.

"At the end of the night I went to the back and looked up at the sky. In every direction I looked there was lightning, but right above us it was crystal clear," Smith said. "That was an act of God, no doubt. That's why we didn't stop, even when we were thousands of dollars in debt."

Volunteer Jim Rogers, of Cloquet, staffed the information booth. He said the festival is an expression of faith, empowering people to bring something to the community, for everyone to enjoy.