The cabins at Holbrook Campground will again be filled with families for the annual Holbrook Camp Meeting next week. The property with nearly 75 cabins, called “tents,” is reserved exclusively for the gathering of Christian fellowship and worship, where families reunite and children run around and ride bicycles in the grass.

The 10-day non-denominational event kicks off July 13 with an opening service at 8 p.m., with a more regular schedule the next eight days before closing the following Sunday afternoon. There are at least three services each day, a morning service at 11 a.m., afternoon prayer at 3 p.m. and an evening service at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, there are additional services for children and youth.

Speakers for the event are preachers Mike Orr and Jared Lathem, whose families have been among the camp’s tents for decades.

According to historical accounts, the tradition began when Jessie C. Holbrook received 40 acres of land for shoeing a horse in 1839. Holbrook then sold the land for $20 to local Methodists for a camp meeting. The land has been considered hallowed ground ever since.

The original services were held outside under trees, and later people would gather under an arbor, which had to be replaced as the attendees outgrew the first and the second was damaged in a storm. The current arbor was built in 1890 and is surrounded by cabins that range from small buildings with sawdust floors with one bedroom to larger ones with wooden floors, several bedrooms and some with air conditioning.

Some of the families that own the tents are local to Cherokee County and surrounding areas with a history going back generations. Others have moved beyond the state of Georgia and return every summer for camp meetings.

One of many with a long history at Holbrook Campground is Travis Smithwick, a trustee for the property and one of the camp meeting’s organizers.

“This is the place where you can find Jesus. This is a place where kids meet Jesus,” Smithwick said. “It is a truly holy place where people can reconnect with God — that’s what it means to me.”

New to the event is a night of singing called the Red Back Church Hymnal Singing, scheduled for July 21 at 7 p.m. Rather than a regular service, the majority of the time is dedicated to music with a message afterward, and those who attend can borrow traditional red hard cover hymnals to sing from.

“Camp meeting is all about stepping back in time and practicing traditions. All the songs we sing are out of the hymnal. A lot of people in churches don’t use hymnals anymore; we’re accustomed to praise and worship music, which is great too. But appreciating the hymns and traditional music is a part of camp meeting,” said Cameron Holloway, who is organizing the hymnal singing and plays the organ at camp meetings. “Shining a spotlight on some of the old hymns, I think people will enjoy taking a trip to yesteryear.”

Holbrook Camp Meeting is at 2415 Holbrook Campground Road near the Cherokee/Forsyth county line. For more information, including a complete schedule, visit www.holbrookcampground.org.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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