Saturday morning at Smoky Mountain Christmas began with another morning devotional from, Billy Huddleston. At 9:30 AM everyone was in their seats as Billy opened the morning in prayer. Saturday morning he wrapped up the thought from Habakkuk by briefly explaining how Jesus’ birth fulfilled the past promise, present promise and one day, the future promise of His return. I especially liked how Billy closed his message, encouraging everyone that because Jesus, the Promise, had come, we now have hope for any and every situation we’ll ever face. Now that’s a Christmas promise worth remembering!
During the afternoon, my gang headed to the Christmas Place to look around in the shops and enjoy the city of Pigeon Forge. The decorations and ornaments in that place can make a Christmas lover go over the top! So, it was really hard, but I didn’t buy the Star Wars lights that had little BB-8’s on them. LOL! It was a fun afternoon, but all day I only had one thought on my mind…Christmas dinner. At five o’clock, we enjoyed another delicious meal catered by Tony Gore. This time, it was a traditional Christmas dinner. Both ham and turkey were served on the plates, along with stuffing, gravy, southern green beans, cranberry sauce and a roll. Hmmm-mmm! Was it good! Tony’s cooking is out of this world. To top it off, we had peach cobbler for dessert. Y’all, I was in heaven!
After the meal and enjoying everyone’s company at our table, folks migrated into the adjoining room for the concert. It kicked off with John Darin Rowsey, Ann Downing and Jonathan White singing “Jesus, What A Wonderful Child.” When that tune ended, John Darin gestured to the side of the stage and said, “Would you welcome my brother in the Lord, Billy Huddleston.” Billy came on stage and before he sang, he explained why he picked this song, “I said this morning that John doesn’t get enough credit as a songwriter. This is one he wrote.” The song was titled, “The Gift That Changed The World,” and was a perfect follow up to Billy’s devotion that morning. “Aren’t you thankful tonight for that gift?” Billy asked when the song ended. Then Billy looked toward the backstage area and beckoned John Darin to join him on stage. When John Darin ascended the stage he explained that he had originally had a different song picked out to sing next, but, a special request came in during dinner. “And we aim to please at Smoky Mountain Christmas!” The request was none other than “Mary, Did You Know?” and John Darin did an incredible job delivering that lyric. Afterwards, he mentioned how we’ve had fun over the weekend, but the weekend wasn’t over yet! “We need 12 volunteers,” John Darin announced with a grin. Immediately, a man in the audience said, “Oh no…” Some volunteers went willingly, others not so much. After they had six people, John Darin spotted his next a victim. “I see a lady trying to drink water and look nonchalant.” Then, “Yes, you! Come on up!” Once the 12 volunteers were on stage and in order, John Darin explained what they were going to do. “You’ve seen folks do the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas,’” he explained. “But we’re going to do it a little differently. Not only do our volunteers have to sing their line, they have to act it out.” This drew some hoots from the crowd! As each person sang and demonstrated their line of the song, laughter filled the room. It was hilarious! My two favorite people were “seven swans a swimming” and “twelve drummers drumming.” Number 7 was actually the lady who was contestant #2 Thursday night on the “Not-So-Newlywed” game. When it was her turn, she turned to Jonathan White – who was holding the mic for her – and said, “Move aside, you’re in my way!” She then went “swimming” across the stage! When we came to #12, John Darin made a big deal about this one. He said, “You know, it’s kind of unfair. This guy has been waiting so long and only gets to do his line once.” John Darin turned to the man and said, “Now, we need an big ending for you…like, a Rock and Roll drummer!” And you guessed it, between John Darin and Billy, they made him do the “twelve drummers drumming” three times! What a fun group of people we had!
“You know,” Billy said, “He doesn’t need an introduction. Here’s Jonathan White!” For the next portion of the set, Jonathan sang a variety of classics like, “What A Wonderful World,” “Silver Bells,” Roger Miller’s “Little Toy Trains and “Let It Snow.” Following, Ann came on stage and sang a few Gospel tunes, “I Stand Amazed” and “Unspeakable Joy.” “Isn’t that a great song?” Ann asked. She went on to thank everyone who signed up with her for the event and asked them to stand. Continuing to share about the weekend, Ann said, “We all say we don’t have time, but I don’t think I can afford not to do this again. To get us in the spirit of the One who dared to come down to this earth and be born in a manger. How can we not do that?” Then she sang her hit song, “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” which was a good fit for Christmas if you think about it. For her next song, Ann came off the stage and shared how they had a cedar tree for Christmas growing up in Mississippi. “We had the fanciest tree stand,” she said with a smile. “Daddy took an old tub and put mud in it and that would have stood there till July if it had too!” LOL! Her next song was introduced by sharing how she recently had to sell her childhood home in Mississippi and what it meant to not be able to go there for Christmas this year. “But even though I can’t go there for Christmas,” Ann explained, “I’ll be home for Christmas. Do you know what I mean? Home is where Jesus is.” This led into “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and then closed with a chorus of “Jesus The Light Of The World” a cappella. Turning the program over to Tony, Ann said, “Tony, I know I probably shouldn’t be making requests, but if you would do that song from last night again, I would be so pleased!”
With that, Tony Gore came on stage and kicked off his set with “When All God’s Children Cross Over,” “Heaven’s Jubilee” and “Pray For Me.” He followed with a few more songs like “Where The Milk and Honey Grow” and “Master Of The Wind” and then introduced Keith, his sound man and restaurant manager. “I couldn’t do what I do without him,” Tony said, “He’s the manager of the restaurant and goes with me when I sing.” While Tony was sharing with the crowd, he also thanked everyone for coming to the event. “Smoky Mountain Christmas was a dream of mine,” he explained, and went on to give the history behind the name and one night concert events he did for 15 years. You could tell that the weekend really meant a lot to him. Before going into his next song, he mentioned that there was a lady on the front row who brought her 91 year old mother, whose dream was to see Tony Gore sing in person. With a smile, Tony teased, “91, it’s about time!” LOL! Tony went on to sing “Meanwhile In The Garden” and “Put On A Crown and Walk Around” then shared how he’s been privileged to do a lot of fun things and feed some of the older entertainers in Country Music. Folks like Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard before he passed away and the Oak Ridge Boys. Looking back on a time when “music was really music” inspired him to record an album called Remember When. His next tune, “Welcome To My World” was from that project. He also sang “Green, Green Grass Of Home” in honor of our military veterans. “I had a gentleman ask if we could say a prayer for our military currently serving,” said Tony, “and I think that’s a great idea.” He requested that we first have a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives and then he would pray. After his prayer, Tony ended the event with Ann’s request “I Count My Blessings.”
Conclusion: Smoky Mountain Christmas was a wonderful weekend! The artists did such a great job with the music; I loved how they incorporated all kinds of Christmas songs into the program. I haven’t been to too many Christmas events, but the concert tours I’ve attended in the past usually just focus on the religious songs. Smoky Mountain Christmas did it all, and it was a lot of fun! Though…I dare say the funnest part of the event was when the artists pulled folks from the crowd up on stage for the “Not-So-Newlywed” Game and the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” More importantly, it wasn’t just during the concert where the artists interacted with those of us in the crowd. They were visiting and talking with folks the whole weekend. It truly was like a family get-together at Christmastime!