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The 30th Anniversary of the Church of God Winterfest

By B. Randall Parris

Thirty years of almost anything is significant. And thirty years of Holy Spirit directed ministry to young people in the event called Winterfest…is certainly significant!


Winterfest has come a long way since 1983 when 279 students and five youth leaders gathered for a winter youth retreat in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Tom Madden was a young youth pastor who helped launch that first ever “Winterfest” event. Three years after its inauguration, the 1986 Winterfest attendance was 2,300. By 1995, it took two jam-packed services each night at the Gatlinburg Convention Center to provide the almost 10,000 students a chance to worship, pray, and seek the face of God. Five years later, in 2000, Winterfest leaders made the courageous decision to move to Thompson-Boling arena in Knoxville, home of the 8-time national champion Lady Volunteers. The arena has been packed every year since, and now Winterfest reaches around the country and around the world to four continents, giving hope, peace, and passion for Christ to 40,000-50,000 students annually!

“Numbers do not tell the story,” Madden reminds us. “We will never know all the details or stories of the thousands who have been saved, fill with the Spirit, and called into ministry. Thousands have walked out the doors of a Winterfest who had an encounter with Christ that changed their lives forever!”

“Almost three generations have experienced the wonder of Winterfest,” Madden continued. “Jesus and relationships are the two elements that stand strong and at the center.”

The 2012, 30th anniversary edition of Smoky Mountain Winterfest is taking place this weekend, March 9-11 where nearly 17,000 young people and leaders will celebrate and worship together. Special guests include Israel Houghton and Jentezen Franklin Kicking off the Friday night opening service. Through Sunday morning, the parade of musical and speaking guests will include Hillsong United, Planet Shakers and Reggie Dabbs.

A special recognition will take place during the weekend as the mayor and the city of Knoxville have issued a proclamation declaring Friday, March 9, 2012 as Church of God Winterfest / Tom Madden Day in honor of 30 years of the event and the guidance of Madden for most of those 30 years.

Madden has continued to develop and lead the ministry of Winterfest, first as a youth pastor at the North Cleveland Church of God, then as state director of Youth and Discipleship in Chicago/Metro and Indiana, International Youth Ministries Coordinator, and more recently Assistant Director of Youth and Discipleship from 2004-2008. At the upcoming Church of God International General Assembly in Orlando July 24-27, Madden will finish his four year term as the International Director of Church of God Youth and Discipleship, with thirty years of Winterfest ministry behind him.

Happy 30th Anniversary Winterfest! That is thirty years of van rides, great musical guests, fast-food, worship, cramped hotel rooms, laughter, friends, and wonderful memories. That also means thirty years where the lives, direction, and paths of young people were interrupted, influenced, and forever changed by the power of the Holy Spirit! God has done, and is doing, an amazing thing through Winterfest!

To learn more about this ministry visit

March 8, 2012

Posted by: Faith News Staff

Category: Church of God News

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