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Evangelist's tour to stop in Buffalo; Christian festival planned for fall

The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham, is bringing his traveling Christian music festival to Buffalo in September.

Rock the Lakes Buffalo, featuring Christian rock and hip-hop acts, as well as preaching by Franklin Graham, is scheduled for Sept. 22 and 23 at Coca-Cola Field.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a nonprofit group based in Charlotte, N.C., has invited area churches to help plan the festival.

The stop in Buffalo is part of a summertime tour of Great Lakes cities that also includes Rochester and Green Bay, Wis.

The Rev. Billy Graham, the iconic preacher who packed arenas and stadiums across the world for his "crusades," is now 93 and no longer healthy enough to preach the Gospel to big audiences. He last appeared in Buffalo in 1988.

His son, Franklin, has taken up the mantle, although with a focus on appealing more to "unchurched" people than to those who regularly worship in churches.

A 2007 Franklin Graham Festival drew more than 21,000 people in Binghamton.

The Rochester event will be held June 16 and 17 in Sahlen's Stadium.

More than 300 people from 95 area churches participated in a organizational launch for the festival.

"We really feel we're off to a great start here in Buffalo," said Sherman Barnett, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Franklin Graham, 59, has been president of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian international relief organization, since 1979.

He succeeded his father as chief executive officer of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2000.

email: jtokasz@buffnews.com