Jordan Knight’s mother grew up spending the annual camp meeting week in her family’s cabin at Morrison Campground, and he did too.
On Sunday, he and his wife, Ann Knight, were continuing the tradition with their three children — Wes, Caroline and Pace. It’s much the same, he said.
“Kids get free rein,” Jordan Knight said. “They get to run around, play in the creek, ride their bikes, stay out late. And two times a day the little ice cream stand is open. The kids love that.”
For 149 years, members of Morrison Campground have returned each summer for the preaching, the twice-daily worship services and the fellowship. There are 28 cabins, many handed down through generations, but hundreds attend the events.
“At the picnic dinner yesterday we had about 195 people, and they aren’t all here yet,” said Bradley Robert, who chairs the board of trustees.
It’s a time of rekindling relationships with extended family members and neighbors, he said, and kindling those relationships in their children, bound by religion and play.
“We have Vacation Bible School all week for the kids and lots of activities,” Robert said. “Somebody’s always sitting out — it’s a safe environment — so they can just run around barefoot and get dirty.”
The cabins, which are still referred to as tents, have plumbing now and electricity to run lights and fans. But in the early camp meeting days, a Dykes Creek spring served the congregation’s needs.
“That’s where people got their water, took their baths and floated their watermelons to keep them cold,” Knight said. “It’s still where the kids play.”
VBS teacher Addie Tanzi was among the handful of adults sitting in the shade by the spring Sunday, watching the children splash in the crystal-clear shallow pool.
“Do you know about ice cream night and VBS?” she asked. “I ordered a water slide for Saturday. Put that in the paper. Anyone can come.”
Guests are welcome to attend the worship services, which are held under an outdoor pavilion at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. each day. Roberts said the preaching is nondenominational, with pastors from Baptist and Methodist churches around the region.
“And we have singing,” he added. “Some of the families here are really blessed with musical talent.”
Thursday is the ice cream social, following the 8 p.m. service. Roberts said all of the “tentholders” make tubs of homemade ice cream.
“It’s a free-for-all, everybody going through and tasting the different flavors,” he said. “Free ice cream. That’s a very popular night.”
VBS runs through Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to noon — “Our theme is patriotism,” Tanzi said — and the slide is expected Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m.
The camp meeting, at 1000 Morrison Campground Road northeast of Rome (map), wraps up with a Sunday morning service.