The event, which takes place at Union Campground in New Haven, is slated for 6 p.m. Friday, June 18 and 1 p.m. Saturday, June 19. More than 50 gospel groups are expected to participate in this year’s Singing in the Pines.
Singing in the Pines was first organized by the Mason County Gospel Singers Association (MCGSA) in 1983. The gospel association, which had sponsored gospel sings in local churches for more than 20 years, wanted to do something different in order to attract more participants. Event organizers believed that an outdoor activity was a way to attract those who would not attend a church sing. Kenneth Bledsoe, who served as the vice president of the MCGSA, was asked to organize the outdoor event.
The Singing in the Pines event eventually developed, and now several volunteers help to organize the annual sing.
“Singing in the Pines is like a big family reunion,” Bledsoe said. “You may never know the individual names of the singers or of the others who attend, but you will recognize them from year to year. It is a joy to see them again, to worship with them again. Although this is a gospel sing, the music is not the main thing here — the main thing is helping people to accept the Lord into their lives, to receive blessings and other needs in their lives.”
Bledsoe, who moved to Mason County with his wife, Evelyn, and family in 1958, said that he believed he was brought to the area for a reason — to contribute his time and effort in directing the Singing in the Pines.
“The Lord has ordained this sing, and anointed it from the beginning. More than once, He has spoken to me while I was working on the (Union) Campground, telling me to continue this work so more people could be drawn to Him. I like to see the Spirit flowing among the people, and seeing the blessings that come from that,” Bledsoe said.
This year’s Singing in the Pines promises to be quite active as several groups from West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee are expected to participate. Among the gospel groups/singers set to attend are Forever Grace, Howard Yarbough, The Eddie Williams Family, The Couch Family, The Singing Byrds, The Nale Family, New Salvation, Heart and Soul Trio, H.I.S. II Gospel Singers, Called, The Oney Family, The Gibbons Family, Celestial City, Delivered, Brian & Family Connection, Joe McCloud, Majestic Sounds, The Singing Shafers, Betty Callihan, The Sounds of Salvation, The English Family, SonRise, Valorie Higginbotham, Ronnie Kinser, Heaven’s Call, New Song, Heavenly Angels, The Sheltons, Sincere, The Bledsoe Family, Fred & Helen Lemley and the Pine Knots.
In addition to singing, each year a handmade quilt is given away during Singing in the Pines. The quilt, which features a pine tree design, has been made my many people. Mazie Camp of Ashton has made this year’s quilt, which has a yellow and white background with trees made of various prints in shades of green. Last year’s quilt was won by 12 year-old Jason Schultz Jr. of Letart, and featured a purple and white background.
There is no admission fee to attend the Singing in the Pines. Free camping will be available as well, however hook-ups are not provided. The campground is equipped with restrooms and shower facilities. According to Bledsoe, singing will last until the early hours of the morning on both June 18 and 19.
For more information, call 304-895-3845.