NEW HAVEN, W.Va. — After 36 years, the final “Singing in the Pines” will take place June 14 and 15, but organizer Evelyn Bledsoe says it will be a time of celebration, not sadness.
The outdoor music event will be held at Union Campground, just outside of New Haven, W.Va. It will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, and again at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and will be held rain or shine.
“Singing in the Pines” was started by Kenneth Bledsoe, who wanted to hold a gospel music event in an outdoor venue to draw people who might be uncomfortable in a traditional church setting. After his death, two more sings have been held, but attendance has dwindled.
“We lost our leader,” said Evelyn Bledsoe, who took over after her husband’s death. “Our attendance has dropped off gradually.”
Bledsoe said a group of about 12 core volunteers met in March to organize this year’s sing, and she asked them how long they should continue the event. She said the group agreed to pray until May, when the decision was made to make this year the final sing.
“We all felt it should end, but we aren’t sad about it,” Bledsoe said. “We are going to celebrate what all the Lord has done there.”
The 37th annual event is expected to draw over 50 groups and soloists from all over the eastern part of the United States. The music continues well into the night on both days, sometimes not ending until 5 or 6 a.m., Bledsoe said. 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. Dinner starts at 5 p.m., followed by preaching at 7 p.m. Brother Gale Gibbons of the Gibbons Family of Dayton, Ohio, will be preaching. Those attending will also join in anointing the tabernacle with oil and praying for the sing.
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.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.