“Is the whole bus here?” asked little Andy. It was late June and the Garren’s last bus trip came home on Sunday, but from the folks gathered under the porch at Beacon Park Thursday evening, one would wonder if a big green Cavallo bus was in the parking lot somewhere. The evening felt like a reunion of sorts for those who went on the McKameys Hometown Sing and the Memphis bus trip. Everyone was there! Art and Sue, Patsy and Mike, Vince, Joyce and her sisters Ruth and Sharon, Joetta and her sister-in-laws…well, you get the picture!
Though summer was in full swing, a cool breeze gently weaved in between all of us as we chatted. On my right were the product tables displaying product from The Lesters, Lighthouse Messengers and McCunes; down a ways stood the concession stand. On my left, a field full of lawn chairs sat in front of a covered stage in a fenced area surrounded by campers. Yep, this was my third outdoor sing of the year…and it was only June! Anyway, welcome to Beacon Park! We’ll be spending the next few posts at this sing, which is located in Harrison, Arkansas and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed experiencing them.
“What started as a front porch singing and became one of the biggest Gospel Sings in the nation,” began Duane Garren, the weekend emcee. “This is their 35th year.” After making some general announcements Duane brought out the host group, The Lighthouse Messengers. This mixed group kicked off their sing with two songs called Saints Gathering In and Pray, Pray, Pray. The subject of prayer had been a lifeline to this family recently, as Melinda explained that her mom, Fern, had a third of her bottom right lung surgically removed one week ago. (This was in June.) Though Fern was still recuperating from the surgery, she was up on the porch watching the singing! Melinda went on to sing a song called We Need To Thank God, which was a priceless expression of their faith during that difficult time. “Dad thinks you might not know who we are,” laughed Melinda. So she asked who was at Beacon Park for the first time and joyfully exclaimed, “Welcome to our front yard!” Since Arvin was concerned they had not introduced themselves yet, that came next. The Lighthouse Messengers began 37 years ago and include Arvin and Fern Adams, their daughters, Melinda and Wrinda (who played keyboard), and LaVerne Widner. (Because of Fern’s health, she didn’t join the family singing this year.) They closed with All That Heaven Holds and It’s Alright.
“I’ve been all over this country and I say this is the nicest park anywhere in America.” – Duane Garren
“Make welcome these lovely ladies from Mountain Grove, Missouri, The McCunes!” Duane exclaimed. This trio of sisters began their set with the classic I Will Serve Thee, then When Jesus Passes By, I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now and The Star Spangled Banner acapella. “We are going to do this song for our soldiers,” said Micki. A ballad called Wounded Soldier followed. “Aren’t you glad that Jesus loves us?” asked Toni, “He loves us no matter where I am or who I am. He not only loves Americans, but the Russians, Germans and Chinese too, and no matter where you go, everybody knows the song Jesus Loves Me. Let’s see how the Native Americans would have played Jesus Loves Me…” Then Teresa played it on the keyboard with a don, don, don in the left hand that would resemble an Indian drum. Then they did a Russian version that had a Classical feel in a minor key, next was the Chinese rendition that featured a very light staccato sound and a Scottish style with a drone and slip note. “But here at Beacon Park, this is how we like it!” Toni exclaimed and then they played it Southern Gospel style. “And there you have Jesus Loves Me around the World!” said Micki, who went on to introduce her sisters. The next song was a request. Lyrically, it was the story behind on what they would sing to themselves when they were kids and the preacher would get long winded on Sunday morning, it was called Let’s Go Eat. It was the first time I heard this song and giggled all the way through it! Can I say my favorite line was, “When the rolls are throwed up yonder we’ll be there!” LOL After they sang Feeling Fine Toni asked, “Does anybody here like good old fashion bass singing, like a quartet?” Hands raised in the air and she went on, “Cool! We don’t have one of those but we like to pretend like we can do something like that, so we pulled out an old hymn, hope you enjoy it!” That old hymn was On The Jericho Road. Later, Micki brought out her saxophone for Meeting In The Air and then they closed with If There’s No God and Rock Of Ages I Shall Stand.
When Duane came back on stage he took a mic and said, “Alright, let’s get something straight right now, I’m related to those two but I’m married to this one.” He put his arm around Micki and continued, “We’ve been married for uh, uh, ten years!” LOL Arvin came up and briefly asked folks to pray about becoming a sponsor to the park for $10 a month to help keep the concerts at Beacon Park free for folks to attend. As they took the offering the McCunes played Just A Closer Walk With Thee on the sax, keyboard and bass guitar.
The next group on stage was The Lester’s and according to Duane, they haven’t been to Beacon Park in a few years. The male trio kicked off with When We All Get To Heaven and Brian exclaimed, “Are y’all having a good time tonight? God has blessed us abundantly with a great evening, see if you remember this one.” It was another old hymn, In The Sweet By and By. “I believe that day’s coming,” said Brian, “but until then we have a job to do and a message to tell.” That message was revealed in their next song, The Message of Jesus Christ. “God bless you! Thank you so much!” Brian went on, “Did you enjoy the McCunes? I love that bunch…I even like that one’s husband.” LOL He went on to say that he wanted to keep “the talking” to a minimum tonight, but his son, Jonathan interjected, “Too late!” Anyway, the group was introduced quickly and then they sang Favorite Song Of All. That song is one of my favorites and I think it has a magical touch when performed outdoors. After His Redeemed Brian gasped for air and told the crowd, “I would sing it again, but they would get out of breath.” LOL He went on to tell the crowd that in October they will be celebrating their 90th year singing. Brian is a third generation Lester and Jonathan fourth! They went on to sing a snappy tune called Anytime and then some older songs like I Shall Know Him, What A Day That Will Be, and Amazing Grace. They also did a new song called The Way He Was Raised – a very neat message told in a two-fold way! The Lesters finished up with We’ll Understand It Better In The By and By.
Intermission broke, where the concession stand was just as popular place to be as any of the artists tables! Let me tell you about the food for a minute…first off, it was very reasonably priced, but more importantly, delicious! The variety was good too, if you could think of eating it, they most likely sold it! Ice Cream, cookies, chicken tenders, burgers, snow cones…they also added a new item this year called “Arvin’s Dog” (a polish baloney with sauerkraut) and it went over so well it sold out and Arvin had to give up some of his stash in the home freezer!
Anyway, let me tell you more about Beacon Park and the Adams family. I admit that some phrases like “Welcome to our back yard!” that Melinda mentioned while they were singing and the comment about Fern watching the concert from “the porch” may be a little confusing if you haven’t been to the park yourself, so I want to clear that up. Arvin is the pastor at Miracle Lighthouse Church in Harrison, Arkansas. More precisely, the church is just a short walk from Beacon Park. Above the concession stand is the Adams’ home. They built it with the park in mind, having the area below to accommodate fans when they hosted a concert and the upper level to be their dwelling place as they minister in that capacity. It is a very neat place in that the back of the building (that faces the stage) looks like a concession stand and the front looks like a house. Clever engineering! Also, the field adjacent to the concert area is capable of parking 100 RVs with full hook up capacities. If your family enjoys camping, Beacon Park is the ideal place to visit! (…and the view is gorgeous!) You can click HERE to like their page on FB and keep up with their ministry!