NEW HAVEN — For the past 35 years, “Singing in the Pines” has grown into one of the largest outdoor gospel music events in the tri-county area.
The 36th annual event is set for June 15 and 16 at Union Campground, just outside of New Haven. It will start at 6 p.m. on Friday, and again at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and will be held rain or shine.
The sing is usually attended by people and singers from all over the eastern part of the United States, according to Evelyn Bledsoe, organizer. The music continues well into the night on both days, sometimes not ending until 5 or 6 a.m. Those attending come and go as they please, and admission is free.
Anyone wanting to sing can sign up an hour before the event begins. A drawing is held to see the order in which the singers will perform. Bledsoe said normally, 40 to 45 people sign up each day. Soloists and duets are given 10 minutes to sing, while trios or larger groups are given 15 minutes. A professional quality sound system is provided.
The Union Campground amphitheater seats approximately 500, and people are also invited to bring chairs if they want to sit on the outskirts of the building.
Bledsoe said people start arriving for “Singing in the Pines” as early as Wednesday each year. They bring campers, tents, and even sleep in cars. Primitive camping is free, with no hook-ups. Large restrooms and a shower house are available, as well as a picnic shelter and concession stand.
A potluck dinner on Thursday begins the event. Following, there is a preaching service, as well as an anointing and praying over the grounds.
A highlight of “Singing in the Pines” is when the “Pine Knots,” a group of volunteers, gather to close out the two-day event. The group is known for wearing green aprons, singing, and telling jokes. Bledsoe describes the group as getting tired by that time and a little “sappy.”
A second highlight of the sing is a drawing for a free pine tree pattern quilt. Mazie Camp of Ashton 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.
“Singing in the Pines” began in 1983 by the late Kenneth Bledsoe 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, when Evelyn decided to continue the sing.
For more information, contact Bledsoe at 304-895-3845.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at email@example.com.