Ryan Bomgardner of Euphrates is a full-time comedian and quatrain and has been working professionally on stage for two decades.
At age 10, Bomgardner began performing in local churches with his puppets in front of small audiences. Today, at age 37, Bomgardner gives an average of about 130 shows a year and has performed at Christian festivals in front of more than a thousand audiences.
Bomgardner, an entrepreneur, has also created a niche tourism business by organizing and organizing cruise vacations for communities of Anabaptist and plain sects. The program, like most other tourism programs in 2020, was discontinued due to COVID-19, but it is back on track with two cruises this year and plans for 2023.
Bomgardner organized his first cruise for conservative Christians in 2012 at the urging of other performers he met while serving as a fourth speech on entertainment routes and aboard cruise ships. It has attracted about 400 travelers to the Caribbean through its Christian programs.
“Many of the cruisers who first arrived on the voyage were willing to sign up for the second voyage before heading out on the first,” he says.
Bomgardner collaborates with Royal Caribbean International on trips whose customers may be surprised by those from English – or non-Amish – communities.
“I’m always surprised,” says Bomgardner, “when people are surprised to learn that Mennonite and Amish families are taking vacations. Our cruises were new to many people, but they were willing to try rather than just return to the beach in the summer for a week. They liked the change. “
Bomgardner calls his cruise program “Sail and Sing.” He organizes the route both with entertainment on board and with tours. He invites famous Christian artists and speakers – his personal friends, and many of them have made several trips with Sail and Sing.
Cruises now attract groups of more than 1,000 travelers and more to the Caribbean, Alaska and the Mediterranean.
The Sail and Sing cruise schedule includes concerts of Christian music and hymns, religious chalk talks, religious programs, and religious speakers.
While it’s a holiday for everyone, Bomgardner feels that Sail and Sing passengers are returning spiritually renewed.
As a professional artist, Bomgardner has collaborated with puppet partners, sometimes several, and the popular quartet has traveled with them around the world. His shows are suitable for adults and children. This summer, in addition to performing abroad, he has performed regularly on the local Bird-In-Hand stage and will return for the 2022 summer season. Before marrying Gail’s wife and they started a family, Bomgardner was a regular cruise performer and saw no reason why cruises would not be attractive to a conservative Christian community.
Steve Stutzman’s family singers have performed on all Sail and Sing cruises. Stutzman is a native of Lancaster County and performs nearly 100 times each year across the country with his family.
“If we have 700 Sail and Sing cruisers on the trip, almost everyone will be attending an evening show with Christian artists hosted by Ryan,” says Stutzman.
Stutzman says he and other performers know many cruise travelers from previous trips or have met them at church performances.
“Some of them know the lyrics of the hymns as well as we do, and join us in two- or three-part harmony,” he said.
Although the first cruises focused on clean vacation spots, Bomgardner took a natural step forward – at the suggestion of his repeat travelers – in 2019 and planned a cruise with a religious focus. The trip was a 12-day cruise on the Mediterranean, accompanied by the Apostle Paul’s travels stopping in Athens, Corinth, Malta and Sicily, where Paul preached a new Christian religion. Bomgardner plans a trip to the Holy Land in 2023 with stops in Israel, Egypt and Jordan. He also planned a cruise on Mediterranean Bible study in five countries in 2023.
Bomgardner says he continues to work with Royal Caribbean International and they welcomed his guests and supported him to make the holiday unique for Christian travelers.
“Now we’re such a big group,” Bomgardner says, “other passengers ask the crew about us and wonder if the Amish are on spring break. We actually hold one open performance each cruise where other passengers can join us to see what we’re talking about. We do not hide that we all have a strong Christian faith, no matter what church or tradition we come from. ”