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Loudoun Youth Fest prepares for its second countywide event.

For the second year in a row the Loudoun Youth Initiative is preparing to bring out thousands of teens and families for the Loudoun Youth Fest. Last's year inaugural event brought out more than 1,000 residents and Tim Chesnutt, director of the Loudoun Youth Initiative, said the organization is preparing for a bigger and better event.

"We're expecting up to 5,000 folks," he said. "We're just trying to repeat what we did last year and improve upon it."

WHEN THE Loudoun Youth Initiative planned for the youth festival last year, it was not sure how it would be received. Organizers planned for only one event, leaving them without a location for this year's festival.

"When we approached Ida Lee Park last year, we approached them as if this was a one-year thing," Chesnutt said. "So we needed a new place to hold it."

The new location? Belmont Country Club, where the Loudoun Summer Music Fest is held every year.

"That's the prime spot in the county," Chesnutt said.

To get the location, LYI worked with the Loudoun Foundation, setting up the Youth Fest as an unofficial lead-in to the music festival.

"It will effectively be the kickoff for the summer concert series," Chesnutt said. "It all just sort of followed from there."

Free transportation will be offered to the festival from Heritage, Loudoun Valley, Dominion and Freedom high Schools, and Lucketts Community Center. Chesnutt said it will be important for people to use the free transportation because the parking area at Belmont Country Club will not be able to hold all the people expected to attend.

"We really encourage people to take advantage," he said.

THIS YEAR'S set up will be similar to last year's, Chesnutt said, with some minor changes.

"We had to turn vendors away," he said. "Which is a really positive problem to have."

The youth fest has partnered with AOL and other local sponsors to support the event.

"AOL has really stepped up this time," Chesnutt said. "They're funding probably close to one-third by themselves, with the county being one-third and the other sponsors funding the rest."

All of the festival's sponsors, such as HCA Virginia, Inova Loudoun Hospital, Wegmans and Comcast, will have booths set up at the event, along with 24 other groups with important information for teens.

"We want to promote healthy development for teens," Chesnutt said. "The real goal is to help them develop their competency, so they can make their own choices. We want to give them the tools to make healthy decisions."

IN ADDITION, there will be two stages, Chesnutt said, to keep the entertainment continuous.

"While one is breaking down, the other is performing," he said.

All of the youth bands that submitted a compact disc to the Loudoun Youth Initiative were reviewed by other teens, Chesnutt said, to gauge what attendees might enjoy.

"So the final decision on performers will be made by a group of kids," he said.

The Loudoun Youth Initiative is also asking attendees to bring Silly String with them to donate to POSSE, Protecting Our Servicemen Serving Everywhere. Soldiers in Iraq use Silly String to check for invisible wires, which could be attached to incendiary devices.

Chesnutt said the atmosphere surrounding the youth fest has really changed this year, allowing the event to take on energy of its own.

"Last year we had to go around and knock on doors, this year we are turning people away," he said. "In one year's time the whole dynamic has changed."

— Erika Jacobson