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Bringing a Ghost Town Alive With Gospel Music

Suzie cropBy Suzy Solomon

Regular Contributer

www.oldtimeradiogospelhour.com

The eighth Annual GospelGrass–a bluegrass and acoustic gospel music festival–will be held at Goldfield Ghost Town, north of Apache Junction, Arizona on February 1-2, 2014. It’s a great location for spirit-filled, Holy Ghost music to happen!

Goldfield, settled in 1892 when high grade ore was discovered, sits between the Superstition and Goldfield Mountains. An official U.S. Post Office was established there a year later. News of the “official” find and legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine quickly drew people to Goldfield. Several businesses were started, including saloons, a general store and a blacksmith shop. The town even had a school. But, as the mine played out and miners moved on to better prospects, the town died. After just five years in existence, the Goldfield Post Office closed its doors in 1898. Goldfield was deserted, becoming what is known as a ghost town.

In 1984, the town experienced a “re-birth” when Bob Schoose re-created the town on the site where the old mill used to stand. The new town included a snack bar. In 1988, Goldfield Ghost town was open for business, which now includes the Goldfield Museum, detailing the rich mining history of the area surrounding the Superstition Mountains.We discovered Goldfield’s perfect location when we were traveling around Arizona in 2005, and camped at the Lost Dutchman State Park, not far from the ghost town.

Gary and I went to Goldfield and visited the wonderful Church at the Mount. Built as a replica of an early Colorado church, the church is complete with an organ from the 1880′s, a pulpit that was once a pipe organ in the famous Hammond Theater, has pews in the style of the late 1800’s dating back to 1931, chandeliers made from old wagon wheels, and a rough-hewn wooden cross. We asked Pastor Tim Jones about having a festival there, and he agreed. Goldfield GospelGrass was born!

Our first festival had just three bands. One band, which included John and Peggy Craig, has since changed names, but the Craig’s are still with them. The Craig’s have played every year, and their band, Brush Arbor Revival, is scheduled to play in 2014. Bost Family Traditions, another band from the first festival, is now in such demand that they travel full time. Bost Family Traditions occasionally make the festival when their schedule allows. Since 2006, over 30 different bands have performed at the festival, some local and regional, and some from out of state.

One of our favorites to watch over the years is Jam Pak Blues ‘N Bluegrass Neighborhood Band or, Jam Pak for short. Started by Annie Beach and her late husband, Vincent in 1994, this will be Jam Pak’s 6th year at the festival. Band members, ages 5 – 90 practice, sing and, play traditional bluegrass, gospel and old-time music.

Anni came from a musical family and was inspired to learn to play the mandolin. As a substitute teacher, she often took music into the classroom. One day, two neighborhood children knocked on the Beach’s door. They had met Anni in school and had sang with her. They asked if she could sing with them again. This was the kernel of inspiration of Jam Pak project.

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The Jam Pak kids began learning on simple one-stringed instruments called “canjos”. Since then, they have been sponsored by Arizona bluegrass organizations, and many individuals who have provided, loaned, and/or donated instruments, lessons and lesson scholarships. The band is now 25 members strong with guitars, fiddles, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, and even a wash-tub bass. Through the years, they have worked with over 200 children and adults.

Other bands scheduled to perform in 2014 are: Cabin John, Cinder Mountain, Cisco & the Race cars, Greenwood Sidee, Jason Donne & The Open Graves, Karmann & Kompany, and Nehemiah 4:20.

Gary and I have produced gospel festivals all over the United States, but one thing that makes this festival unique is the international audience. Many foreigners come to enjoy the ghost town and Wild West atmosphere, and are excited to hear our style of Christian music. We feel privileged to be reaching folks from around the world with the Gospel sung old-time style.

From the beginning of one afternoon with three bands, this free festival has grown. It lasts two days and has three stages (two outside and one in the Church on the Mount). The stage located in the “downtown” area is interrupted by a gunfight at the top of every hour. The music pauses while cowboy murder and mayhem take place. As soon as the smoke clears, the music starts again. Something else unique to the Goldfield GospelGrass festival!

Come out and enjoy the music and atmosphere. Bring your camp chairs and plan to stay a while. If the weather is cold in February, the music will go on. RV camping is also available.

Goldfield GospelGrass Festival: Sat. Feb. 1, 10 am – 5 pm, Sun. Feb. 2, 12 pm – 5 pm.

For more information, call Suzie at 303.638.3825 or go to www.oldtimeradiogospelhour.com and look for ‘GospelGrass Festivals’ link on the right side of the screen.

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