NEW HAVEN — One of Mason County’s largest outdoor gospel music events is set to take place June 16 and 17, rain or shine.
The 35th annual Singing in the Pines will be held at Union Campground, just outside of New Haven. The event is usually attended by people and singers from all over the eastern part of the United States.
The sing will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, and again at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free. The music continues well into the night on both days, according to organizer Evelyn Bledsoe, with those attending coming and going as they please.
Singing in the Pines draws soloists and groups from West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Anyone wanting to sing can sign up an hour before the event begins each day. A drawing is then held to see the order in which singers will perform. Normally, 40 to 45 people sign up each day. Soloists and duets are given 10 minutes to sing, while trios or larger are given 15 minutes.
Several groups have already committed to attending this year, including The Sheltons, New Salvation, Charlie and Evelyn Rife, Heavenly Angels, Golden Street Singers, Called, Rick and Ginny Towe, Singing Byrds, Evans Family Trio, The Lightners, Christ Unlimited, Family Connections, Joe McCloud, The Fredericks, H.I.S. II, and the David Oney Family.
A highlight of the event, Bledsoe said, is the “Pine Knots,” a group of volunteers who gather at the end of the two-day event to close it. The group is known for wearing green aprons, singing and telling jokes.
“At the end, it is well into the next morning, and we all get a little ‘sappy,’” Bledsoe said. “It is a wonderful time to close us out and to pray, and those who leave before the Pine Knots are really missing out.”
Another highlight of the sing is a drawing for a free pine tree pattern quilt, made annually by Mazie Camp of Ashton. Camp uses the same pattern each year to make the quilt, changing only the color shades. Those attending can sign up for the Saturday evening drawing, and do not have to be present to win.
People start arriving for Singing in the Pines as early as Wednesday each year. They bring campers, tents, and even sleep in cars. A potluck dinner is held Thursday, followed by a preaching service. The grounds are then anointed and prayed over, according to Bledsoe.
The campground is equipped with a picnic shelter, concession stand, large restrooms and shower house. The roofed amphitheater will seat approximately 500, but many bring lawn chairs or blankets for use on the grassy areas.
The event was started by the late Kenneth Bledsoe in 1983 when he was vice president of the now-defunct Mason County Gospel Singers Association. The association wanted to start a gospel music event in an outdoor venue to draw people who might be uncomfortable in a traditional church setting. The Bledsoes continued to organize the event each year until Kenneth’s passing last fall, when Evelyn decided to continue the annual sing.
For more information on the event, contact Bledsoe at 304-895-3845.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at [email protected]