The 22nd Annual Great Smokies Praisefest (hosted by Greater Vision) was held in Sevierville, Tennessee. I have a “branch” in my “family tree” that extends to Sevierville and have been there many times – but little did I know that those whom I would come in contact with at Praisefest would welcome me in as if I’d been going to that event all my life! *smile* So I want to take a moment here and tell about those special moments I experienced and observed during the sessions, share some photos from our little trek to Newfound Gap’s “winter wonderland” and report on some interesting facts I learned about the city!
Praisefest truly had a family like atmosphere. It seemed like every session I either met someone or saw something that reminded me of that little comment Gerald Wolfe made on Monday night, “We have become a big family.” For me, it all began at the first session with the sweet lady sitting to my right, who introduced herself when intermission began. Jean and her husband Don came with their church group from South Carolina. There were thirteen in their group! (Which stretched down through the end of our row and the row behind us!) She introduced me to Don and told me the story of the first Praisefest they attended back when it was in the field! It was such delight! On Tuesday and Wednesday evening, when intermission would roll around, they brought out ziplock baggies full of snacks and insist that I have some too! They were so sweet! Sitting to my left was a couple from Georgia, Marlene and Donald, and they were so nice to chat with too! But the joy of the event wasn’t contained to just our row. It was everywhere! On Tuesday evening when Dr. Charles Stanley preached, I couldn’t help but notice what the lady sitting in the row in front of me did when he announced what passage of the Bible he would be reading from. Reaching in her purse, she pulled out her Kindle reader, turned it on and selected the Bible app where she brought up the chapter Dr. Stanley was preaching on. Then, she handed it to the lady in front of her and used her iPhone to pull up the same passage of Scripture so she could follow along herself! It was so thoughtful of her to think to do that! That same night during intermission, I wondered into the lobby – now you need to know that the lobby was very small and couldn’t accommodate all the fans at once…but that didn’t keep them from trying! LOL About half way in, there was a little “traffic jam” and no one could move an inch. I thought it might be better to go back to the sanctuary and come back later…but one couldn’t move in that direction either, so I just stood there waiting for an opening. A moment passed and the lady beside me reached out and took my hand, gave it a squeeze and mentioned how busy it was in there. The kind gesture took me by surprise, because I’m very sure she and I had never met and it would have been very normal for her to just keep inching along to where she was going. So my point is this, the people at Praisefest treated everyone like family – whether they knew your name or not, and it was a blessing! *smile*
On Wednesday afternoon we just had to go explore those snowy peaks! We entered the Smoky Mountain National Park and ascended to the Tennessee/North Carolina state line at Newfound Gap. There we saw an indescribable winter wonderland! All along the road on the way up were cars pulled off and families making little snowmen! By the time we reached Newfound Gap the temperature had dropped a good twenty degrees and let me tell you, there was snow everywhere! I’m from Missouri, and in MO, the last few years instead of snow – we’ve been having ice storms, so to see this was quite a treat! It looked like the Chronicles of Narnia come to life!
Last but not least, there were a few things about Sevierville that I found quite interesting! Did you know that Highway 338 follows the same stretch that was once the Great Indian Warpath that Native Americans used to travel up and down the Tennessee Valley? In 1794, Sevier County was named after a man by the name of John Sevier, one short year later the “Forks-of-the-Little-Pigeon” area was selected to be the county seat and called “Sevierville.” Though slaves worked the large plantations in the county, slavery practically was non-existent. Actually, Sevierville was “a hotbed of abolitionist activity,” says Wikipedia. A rather large community of free African-Americans lived in the area. But perhaps Sevierville is best know for being the birthplace of Dolly Parton. On May 2, 1987, Dolly unveiled a statue of herself on the courthouse lawn that was sculpted by a local artist, Jim Gray. That monument still stands there today and we visited it before leaving for home!
So there we have it! A little tour of Sevierville, snowy mountains and a peek into some extra things that happened at Praisefest!