MegaFest 2015 officially kicked off today in Klyde Warren Park. Half family atmosphere — kids splashing and playing in the kids’ park, people getting food from the Thursday food trucks, and an Elsa impersonator wandering around — and half official, the kickoff served to welcome those who had traveled to Dallas for the event. The morning felt not so much like an event itself, as hype for the weekend ahead.
And hype there was. Several guest speakers came to welcome everyone to Dallas, assuring folks that the city is opening its arms to make this weekend the best it can be, and asking the people of Dallas to see themselves as ambassadors, in light of the international profile of the event. It was a great sales pitch for Dallas.
Mayor Mike Rawlings called MegaFest one of the greatest events Dallas has hosted (a pretty strong statement, since he cited Super Bowls and championships in comparison). He even put his soul on the line, telling Bishop T.D. Jakes, “I know pride is a sin, so I’m gonna sin just a little bit. I’m so proud that MegaFest is here.”
The event was as much an argument for faith as for Dallas. Religious music played on loudspeakers, and whiteboards were posted along the park with prompts such as “My faith is taking me …,” “As a family we celebrate our faith by …,” “Faith has brought me through …,” with space for people to write their experiences.
Still, Bishop Jakes was adamant that although he and his fellow organizers are people of faith, they are also “just people.” He thanked his sponsors — including Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, and Blue Cross Blue Shield — and made clear his position that no one should be scared off participating in MegaFest due to its faith-based nature.
It would be hard, however, to separate the event from a position of faith. The three main tenets of MegaFest are inspiration, empowerment, and entertainment. It is almost like an extension of Bishop Jakes’ church, which is well-known for its humanitarian ministry. In fact, on Sunday, Bishop Jakes will hold his service in the American Airlines Center, in order to accommodate everyone at MegaFest.
Bishop Jakes shook hands in a roped-off VIP area behind the stage, surrounded by a certain feeling of awe; clearly, he was the reason why all these people had come today. Because Bishop Jakes grew up in Galveston and bases his 30,000-member church, The Potter’s House, in Dallas, he is considered a hometown hero. Kay Bailey Hutchison talked about his “Texas can-do spirit.” She told the audience that when she met Barack Obama, back when they were senators, he asked her if she knew T.D. Jakes.
The general consensus about Bishop Jakes was that there is nothing this man can’t do. He was even thanked for bringing the first cool weather in two months. With 5 million followers and Oprah in his line-up during the last MegaFest, in 2013, controlling the weather is probably a piece of cake.
It might be hard to top Oprah, but everyone at the kickoff was assured that this MegaFest will be even better than the last. The weekend will include a mixture of entertainment and instruction. Musical performances today were hosted by DeDe McGuire from K104 and included The Confidence Band, a youth group, as well as Geoffrey Golden and Tasha Page-Lockhart. Various seminars are featured on the program, including different conferences for men, women, and youth; health and wellness sessions; and love, family and relationships sessions (they’ve partnered with Christian Mingle). Music and comedy are also featured, as well as the Faith & Family Film Festival. MegaFest has just begun.
[Editor’s note: Annie Wiles is a fall D Magazine intern.]