Bridgefest 2011 Rocks with Francesca Battistelli and Brandon Heath

USA – Ocean Grove, New Jersey – The sixth annual Bridgefest, a concert and beach event featuring contemporary Christian recording artists and speakers, took over the Great Auditorium and the surfers’ beach again this year for two days of teachings and summer fun.

2010 Dove Music Award winners Francesca Battistelli and Brandon Heath were the front liners for the event, and newcomer group Downhere, a 4-member Canadian import with several hits now receiving good air play, were openers.

Brandon Heath performs for enthusiastic crowd

The original advertisements boasted “God must love Bridgefest” and it’s evidently true that He does:  steady rain choked the week prior to the event, but on the opening day, rain showers cleared magically to blue skies surrounding the Great Auditorium and brought dramatic punctuations to afternoon gatherings.

Juno Award winner Downhere wowed the crowd with their hits Let Me Rediscover You (2011), You’re Not Alone (2010), Here I Am (2008) and How Many Kings (2007), and other songs.  Lead singer Marc Martel has an amazing likeness of voice to the late Freddy Mercury of Queen, the two groups, obviously, having completely different audiences.  (Note: Downhere was formed by Martel and keyboardist Jason German who were roommates at Briercrest Bible College)  The group’s next major album, On the Altar of Love, is set for release on August 23, 2011.

Brandon Heath draws crowd down stageside

Battistelli opened with her playful crowd favorite This Is the Stuff and continued to delight the audience until Brandon Health, ever the prankster, crept up behind her on stage and joined her in closing numbers. 

Heath debuted cuts from his recently-released CD Leaving Eden, and delighted with his well known hits such as I’m Not Who I Was, Give Me Your Eyes, No Not One, Don't Get Comfortable, and thrilling Your Love and Our God Reigns.  He also treated the crowd to his very special rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising in memory of the recently-deceased music legend and NJ icon Clarence Clemmons.

Downhere’s performance was preceded by words from Pastor Brian Broderson of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, the Southern California church that started the Calvary Chapel movement which has led to the growth of more than 1,500 non-denominational churches around the world. One of The Bridge's many popular teachers, Broderson shared his testimony, cutting it short to introduce Ryan Ries, founder of The Whosoevers ( shared his amazing testimony of coming back- through Christ- from the brink of extinction by way of drug addiction and an otherwise very dangerous lifestyle.

Christian Surfers group gives surf lessons Saturday morning

The evening's gospel message was provided by Pastor Jack Hibbs, founding senior pastor Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, also in Southern California. Downhere stayed on to treat festival goers to an on air interview in the Ocean Grove boardwalk beach pavilion and a concert on the beach the following day.

Pastor Lloyd Pully, Calvary Chapel Old Bridge (NJ) and Pastor Rodney Finch, Calvary Chapel Carey (NC)

Bridgefest featured a record number of Bridge FM teachers this year:   Pastors Rodney Finch of Calvary Chapel, Cary, NC (Salt & Light), Jack Abeelen of Morningstar Christian Chapel, Whittier, CA (Growing Through Grace), Lloyd Pulley of Calvary Chapel, Old Bridge, NJ (Bridging the Gap), and Chris McCarrick of Cornerstone Calvary Chapel, Howell, NJ (Upon this Rock) were on hand present lectures and meet listeners.

Pastor John Randall, Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano (CA) teaches during Saturday morning surf clinic

On Saturday, the fun moved outdoors to Ocean Grove's beautiful surfers’ beach and featured free surfing lessons with Jersey Shore Christian Surfers, and other sports, games, inflatables, and vendors.  Downhere provided an outdoor concert, and Pastor John Randall, Calvary Chapel, San Juan Capistrano, spoke at closing.  Ocean baptisms followed.

Many partner vendors were at Bridgefest, including Olga and Felix Rizvanova representing Gospel for Asia

If you missed this amazing event this year, plans are already under way for 2012.  Information can be obtained at The Bridge’s web site:  visit


Pastor Lloyd Pulley greets attendees after speaking

About The Bridge:

The station went live on the air for the first time on June 27, 2003. Since then, the station broadcasts inspiring praise and worship music along with the life-changing message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, without compromise, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Its programming reaches seekers with the Good News, and also equips believers to reach their world in the power and might of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God has used The Bridge to reach literally millions of people all over the world, through the station’s online streaming, and throughout theNew York /New Jersey area on these stations:

89.7 FM in Monmouth andOcean Counties,NJ

91.9 FM in SouthernMiddlesex County,NJ

103.1 FM in North Jersey andNew York City

99.7 FM inSullvian County,NY

94.3 FM inPomona,NY

106.9 FM inPoughkeepsie,NY

The Bridge Christian Radio (Bridgelight, LLC) is a radio ministry of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ.


Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa:

Calvary Chapel Chino Hills:

Calvary Chapel Cary:

Morningstar Christian Chapel:

Cornerstone-Calvary Chapel:

Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano:

Pastor Jack Abaleen from Calvary Chapel Whittier (CA) and his New Jersey crew of volunteers


Text & Photos ©2011 M. D. Caprario

M. D. Caprario is a Christian cross-over mainstream entertainment journalist. She reports from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and internationally (and even occasionally from her home state of New Jersey), covering for the media books, film, and music.  Reach her at [email protected].


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