A free, community-wide celebration will be held from 12:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Marietta Campground, 2301 Roswell Road near Sewell Mill Road. It will include barbecue, hotdogs, watermelon, games and inflatables.
The 175th anniversary celebration also includes the Mars Hill Porch Pickers bluegrass band, a WellStar health fair and a cakewalk game.
To demonstrate daily life 175 years ago, the Ways of the Ancestors Primitive Skills program will demonstrate stone cooking, arrowhead making and Lakota tipi construction. Appalachian Heritage Guild members will demonstrate weaving, spinning, candle and soap making. There will also be chair caning and woodcarving demonstrations.
In addition, the public is invited to view the campground’s newly renovated schoolhouse, built in 1891. It will feature a museum exhibit of artifacts, photographs and newspaper clippings related to the history of the Marietta Campmeeting.
About 500 people attended last year’s public celebration, said Marietta Campmeeting President Cheryl Lassiter. She expects 2,500 visitors, mostly longtime members, to attend the entire 10-day event.
Lassiter said the longevity of the campmeeting speaks to God’s ongoing plan for the nonprofit organization.
“It’s an old-fashioned way of worship, but God still has a plan for these hallowed grounds in the 21st century, for this generation and for generations yet to come,” she said.
Though originally Methodist-affiliated, Marietta Campmeeting worship services are nondenominational and open to the public.
Services will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, following a 6 p.m. kickoff picnic. Thereafter, services will be twice daily at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. through July 22. Children’s church will be from 9 a.m. to noon July 16 through July 22.
The outdoor revival concludes with a communion service at 11 a.m. July 22.
At 7:30 p.m. July 16, actor Brad Sherrill will present a special theatrical performance in retelling the Gospel of John.
Campmeeting guest ministers will include the Rev. Ike Reighard, Dr. Gil Watson, the Rev. Charles Sineath and Dr. Jim Lowry.
Following tradition, the campmeeting will conclude with Dr. Brian Germano, pastor of East Cobb United Methodist Church, presiding over the final service.
The Marietta Campmeeting began in 1837, just five years after Cobb Countywas incorporated in 1832 from Cherokee Native American territory. The present tabernacle was built a year later, in 1838. The schoolhouse has undergone three phases of renovations over the past few years.
Today, 23 two-story cabins, called “tents” by the descendants of pioneer families that own them, continue to be lived in during the revival. They border the 40-acre campground site. A public tour of tents is set for 2 p.m. July 21.
Campmeetings gave early settlers a way to participate in organized religious services. At the time, ministers known as “circuit riders,” traveled throughout the area, preaching to farmers who lived miles away from the center of town.
“Preaching services were few, travel was difficult and often dangerous, for the Cherokee Indians were not removed until 1838, and wild animals still roamed the woods,” according to a Journal story published in 1937, commemorating the campmeeting’s 100th anniversary. “The sturdy pioneers were loyal to their God and were not willing for their children to grow up without the blessing of their church about them.”
The campmeeting was discontinued during the Civil War, but resumed in 1870.
Since then, much has changed inside and outside of the campgrounds, said campground historian Ron Phillips of Marietta. For one, many old families have scattered away and Cobb County has also grown immensely.
“The campground was a little bit of civilization in a wilderness, now it’s a little bit of a wilderness in a big civilization,” he said.
Phillips, 74, has attended every campmeeting since he was born. His great-great grandfather attended the first meeting and his great grandfather became a circuit rider after serving in the war. Once again, his family, including grandchildren, and others will return to their tents at an event that has become part revival and part family reunion.
“It’s like a family reunion and like Christmas in July, except it’s hot.”