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Love and The Outcome vocalist Jodi King signs an autograph for Doug Practor of Silverhill, Ala., as he waits for Winter Jam at the USA Mitchell Center on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. (Carol McPhail/cmcphail@al.com)

-- Doug Pactor pulled into the USA Mitchell Center at 8:30 Thursday morning for , the highly popular Christian music tour set to go on at 7 p.m.

He didn t have to be that early.

By about 3:30 p.m. there were lines snaking from the three main entrances and the VIP entrance to the sidewalk, but the crowd was much smaller than it had been last year, when the concert was held on a Sunday. Doors open in 2 hours.

It s light right now, but I ve never seen it not packed, said Pactor, of Silverhill. I think (it being a Thursday) threw a lot of people off-guard.

By 4:30 p.m., though, Everfound and Love and The Outcome had ventured outside to give an impromptu concert, singing "He is With Us." Vocalist Jodi King, one half of the husb-and-wife duo, signed a CD for Pactor.

"That was unexpected," he said. "It was definitely worth being up here (in front)."

This year s lineup includes Newsboys, Lecrae, Tenth Avenue North, Thousand Foot Krutch, Plumb, and . Evangelist Nick Hall will be the speaker. The iDisciple App Pre-Jam Party will feature Love The Outcome, Everfound and Derek Minor.

Pactor, dressed in a NASCAR jacket and Alabama cap, was thankful that the weather had warmed over the past few days. He was first in line at a south entrance and had brought along a lawn chair and a backpack. His wife and daughter brought lunch from McDonald's, he said.

Pactor said the draw for him is the worshipful experience of Winter Jam. "You get 10,000 Christians in one building; something s going to happen, said Pactor, who attends New Beginnings Church in Foley. It s an awesome presence.

The tour s unique ticket policy, which requires at the door (cash or check only) doesn t guarantee everyone a seat. Last year, thousands waited in line at three entrances to the center at the University of South Alabama, which holds about 10,000.

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