If you’ve been attending an event so long you can’t remember what year you started going, I guess that makes it a tradition, right? Because that’s the case when Memorial Day Weekend comes around – I know I’ll be in Carnesville, Georgia at the Indian Creek Memorial Day Weekend Gospel Singing. Not only does Indian Creek Baptist Church host an enjoyable three-day weekend with Gospel music, their concession stand has delicious apple pies. (I should know, I had one every day…lol!) Anyway, this year the event kicked off under the tent on a Thursday night with music from the Farrows, Jeff & Sheri Easter and Karen Peck & New River. It was a wonderful night!
At Indian Creek, the evening concerts begin at six o’clock. Before the singing begins, you’ll find folks coming in to set up their lawn chairs, visiting with the artists or getting a bite to eat at the concession stand. But when Danny Jones and Gary Farmer come on stage to welcome everyone and kick off the evening, everyone becomes still because they know that on this weekend, we’re here for more than just the singing. Gary is from the church, and like every year past, he acknowledges the branches of military by asking the Veterans to stand when their branch of service is called. As men and women stood to be recognized for their service in the Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines and Coast Guard, applause broke out through the crowd. After that, everyone stood with hands over their hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance and finally, Karen Peck Gooch joined them on stage for the National Anthem.
Ready for the evening to begin, Danny Jones brought the first group on stage; a local Georgia family by the name of the Farrows. The Mom and Dad sang with their three young daughters and delighted the crowd with several Gospel favorites. One of the girls, Maddie Grace, sang “Nothing Worrying Me” and then the father, Matt, introduced the family. After intros, the family launched into a rendition of the Isaacs tune, “A Little Bit of Heaven” followed by “Walk Together Children.” After singing KPNR’s song, “I Wanna Know How It Feels,” the mother, Paige, shared how Karen has been a great role model and blessing to her daughters. They closed out their time on stage by singing “Room With a View,” and then the youngest, Mae Rose, sang “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.” Finally, “Just Another Rainy Day,” made popular by the Collingsworth Family closed their short set.
Jeff and Sheri were next and kicked off with the tune, “Small Town Someone.” After their popular ballad, “Over and Over,” Jeff exclaimed, “It’s good to be with you all in this part of Georgia!” He shared that Sheri graduated from Georgia State University and that meant they were “Georgia Bulldogs.” Next, Morgan sang a new song, called “Like My Mother Does.” When she finished, Jeff proudly gestured to Morgan and said, “Morgan got married last fall!” Then, pointing to the drum set behind her, he introduced Morgan’s husband, Landon. After a joke about his hairstyle, Jeff said, “Morgan, go back around there and stand by your man for a minute. Yeah, Landon, stand up for a minute.” Landon stood and put his arm around Morgan, but you could only see the bottom half of his face because he was taller than the Indian Creek banner hanging above. Jeff giggled and said, “I knew that was gonna happen…that’s why I did it!” LOL Speaking of marriage, Jeff mentioned that he and Sheri are celebrating another milestone this year, and this led into the song, “You’re My Best Friend.” At the end, Jeff planted a kiss on Sheri’s cheek and the crowd whistled and cheered. Of course, in true Jeff fashion, he then sang through a little bit of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
If you’ve seen Jeff and Sheri the last several years, you know they have an incredible live band. Naturally, an instrumental of “I’ll Fly Away” was in order! Jeff played the keyboard and harmonica while his cousin, Jared, plucked the steel guitar and Landon rounded everyone out on the drums. At the end, they encouraged everyone to sing along on the chorus and just a few beats later, the tent was swelling with the Gospel song! With the lyrics of that great tune still running through our minds, Sheri picked up her recent devotional and began to read a segment and talk about her aunt who passed away recently. This inspired a rendition of the hymn, “Wayfaring Stranger,” which featured Sheri. Afterwards, Jeff mentioned that the first three years of their marriage, they were on the bus with the Lewis family and Sheri’s aunt, and how they love Bluegrass music. Their closing song featured just that, and Jeff called up his cousin to help them sing “Sea of Life.”
At this time, the offering buckets were ready to be passed and collected. Before the Easter’s left the stage, Sheri shared how much work goes into an event like this. She said, “We know, because we just did this at our Homecoming over Mother’s Day weekend.” She asked the crowd to give from their hearts and give generously. Then, as the buckets were passed she and Karen sang “Victory In Jesus” with the band behind them.
“This group has been coming to Indian Creek for a long time,” said Danny, “but never before, have I been able to say this, welcome the newest member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame to the stage! Karen Peck and Karen Peck & New River!” “Jesus Is The Reason,” a compelling ballad, was KPNR’s first song. “Gotta Be Saved” and “Pray Now” followed, and then Karen talked about what it means for the Lord to be your strength. She shared Ricky’s story and how he’s still cancer free. Then she asked for a show of hands, “How many of you went through cancer and are cancer free today?” As hands raised all over, Karen whispered, “Wow.” She led everyone under the tent in reciting the Lord’s Prayer and then they sang their powerful ballad, “Hope For All Nations.” Group introductions were next and followed by Kari’s duet with Grant, “I’ll Keep On Praying.” The newest member of New River is Grant Gibson, who filled Ricky Braddy’s position. If you remember when Ricky was with the group, he was always featured on a hymn a’cappella at some point in the evening. Well, New River is continuing that tradition with Grant, and featured him on, “It Is Well.” As the familiar lyrics covered the audience, hands were raised all over the tent and a few stood. It was a moment you might not have expected, but right then, the presence of the Lord filled the place. New River went right into “Four Days Late” and it wasn’t long before Karen started to encourage the crowd. She shared about their Holy Land experience and how they were privileged to sing at Lazarus’s tomb. After she brought the story around to how Lazarus’s story can add faith to your life, Karen said, “We serve a living Christ who is never late in your life. Maybe you came here to this tent and didn’t feel like it, yet you clapped and stood anyway, I believe that action activates your faith. Don’t be discouraged friend!” Then they sang the chorus one more time before the program paused for intermission.
But the evening wasn’t over yet, after intermission, all the groups came back on stage for a few more numbers. Jeff and Sheri kicked it off with “John Saw” and Danny mentioned how Jared, Jeff’s cousin, not only can play anything, but he also sings. So the next tune was a special request by Danny Jones for an old Bluegrass song – “Wore Out.” Following, Karen Peck & New River came forward and sang, “On The Banks Of The Promised Land.” At this event, when groups come back on stage after intermission it’s a much more casual atmosphere on stage and everything is “off the cuff” so to speak. At this point, Danny turned to Jeff and said, “We’ve not had a male quartet here tonight,” then after a pause added, “until now.” With that, Danny handed the “formation” of this quartet over to Jeff, and the fun began! Without hesitation, Jeff called over Matt Farrow, Grant Gibson and Jared, with himself filling in the fourth part as they began singing “Just A Little Talk With Jesus.” It was a fun song, especially with Jeff singing the high squeaky tenor notes. Afterwards, Jeff said, “The Farrows sang a KPNR song, I want them to sing a Jeff and Sheri song!” They settled on “New Day,” with a promise that Sheri and Jeff would help feed them words if they needed. Though Matt and Paige Farrow seemed nervous at first, the joy of singing with Jeff and Sheri outshone the jitters as they sang together. When it came time to close the evening, Danny had Jeff sing “Thank You Lord, For Your Blessings On Me.” After the tune, Danny dismissed in prayer.
Conclusion: As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the sing at Indian Creek has become a Memorial Day tradition. But it’s much more than merely something I attend from year to year, in a way, it’s like a family reunion. Friends, Gospel music, delicious food…you can find them all at the tent! But more importantly, the folks at Indian Creek celebrate those who’ve served our country. They always start their evenings with the National Anthem, honoring those who have served and even bringing up Veterans to share about their time in service, when time permits. The whole atmosphere is very patriotic and gives reason to be proud of our country and servicemen and women. It’s one of the reasons I love this event… On a musical note, all the groups were fabulous on the opening night. It’s always a joy to see Jeff and Sheri and Karen Peck & New River, and the Farrows did a great job as well.