What started as a gathering for singing and dinner by one Linville man, continues on 95 years later as the annual Singing on the Mountain event returns to the area on June 23.

Set in MacRae Meadows at the base of Grandfather Mountain, Singing on the Mountain brings free gospel music — as it has a longstanding motto of “whosoever will may come.” This year’s lineup of gospel music sensations, includes The Collective, The Cockman Family, Michael Combs, Patricia Smith, New Covenant and Adam Beard.

The celebration will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m., with a break at 1 p.m. for a sermon by David Chadwick.

Chadwick host of “The David Chadwick Show” and “Moments of Hope with David Chadwick” radio programs and accomplished author — is passionate about sharing the gospel and said he shares his sermons in a way that are conversational, simple, understandable and always Biblical.

Chadwick said he may share a message on the value of passing on a legacy, one he said is needed today. He said he will speak about mainstream truth that the culture needs in order to be healthy.

“Im hoping they’ll be able to take home at least one practical application on how to take what I’ve said ad use it in their own lives,” Chadwick said.

Chadwick grew Forest Hill Church in Charlotte from one campus to six campuses during his 40 years there. He now has a weekly radio program as well as a daily program in Charlotte, in addition to having his sermons broadcasted in multiple cities across the nation. Chadwick also recently aided in the plating of a church called Moments of Hope Church in Charlotte. He is a father of three and grandfather to what is soon to be six grandchildren.

Chadwick and his wife, Marilynn, also have a devotional ministry called Moments of Hope. David played basketball for Dean Smith while attending the University of North Carolina and has written a book about his leadership — as Smith was a mentor of Chadwick’s.

After attendees hear from Chadwick, the event will conclude with a special performance of “Just As I Am” by all of the performers.

Free, handicapped-accessible parking is available at MacRae Meadows located on U.S. 221 — two miles north of Linville and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 305. Attendees are encouraged to dress casually and bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnics. Concessionaires will also be on site.

The spirit of the event is not so different than the first held in 1924, when founder Joe Hartley Sr. coordinated a Sunday School picnic on the same grounds. The festival’s popularity exploded in the 1960s and 1970s, drawing names such as Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff and Bob Hope.

Today, Singing on the Mountain is recognized by the N.C. Arts Council and Blue Ridge National Heritage Area as part of the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina and is the oldest ongoing old-time gospel convention remaining in the Southern Appalachians.

“The Hartley family still comes, and they still bring their picnic like they did more than 90 years ago,” said Harris Prevost, vice president of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation — the nonprofit organization that oversees and operates the Linville nature park. “Little has changed, except for the size of our audience and the technology we use.”

A goodwill offering will be collected to support the musicians who volunteer their time to perform. One of the most popular performers in the history of the Singing is performer Michael Combs, who said he looks forward to sharing his personal message of redemption — through music.

“After squandering many years living in the world and nearly destroying my life with drugs and alcohol, something wonderful happened in my life,” Combs said. “Or, better yet, someone wonderful happened to give me life — his name is Jesus.”

Almost immediately, Combs said, he found himself in a ministry of music.

“I never thought I would be doing what I’ve been doing for the last 25 years, but now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” he said.

To learn more about Michael Combs, visit www.michaelcombs.com. For more information on Singing on the Mountain, visit singingonthemountain.org.

The nonprofit organization of the Singing on the Mountain Foundation Inc. is now accepting donations to help fund the yearly event. To contribute, mail checks to Singing on the Mountain Foundation, 531 Brentwood Drive, Box 209, Denver, NC 28037.

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