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The 180th annual Salem Camp Meeting kicked off with a weekend filled with family meals, services, games and plenty of visiting.

Attendees packed the Tabernacle pews to hear the first service with Dr. Philip DeMore and the Conyers United Methodist choir. Saturday brought the "Bobby and Karen Milton Wide World of Salem Sports" as kids competed for prizes in their age groups, and a service with University of Georgia Chaplain Kevin Hynes.

But the real start to the week happens Sunday as family members descend upon the campground from far and wide for the main Sunday service and supper.

The Jenkins tent expects their 20 occupants to swell to 60 or more family members for supper on Sunday. Turkey, ham and fried chicken are on the menu as well as the numerous dishes brought by relatives.

Kimberly Ramsey returned to her house Friday night to help her husband Tony bake pound cakes and other delectable dishes for the big Sunday meal. It was simply too hot to do such a large amount of cooking in the Ramsey tent, which was built in the 1840s, she explained.

Diane Howington, a camper for 22 years, found herself chaperoning this year for 10 college and high-school age worshippers in the Plunkett tent. This is her favorite week of the year, she explained, because it's a time to slow down and take a break from her hectic schedule as executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale.

"Here you can be who you really are, breathe deep and take in the peace of it all," she said.

Camp meeting continues until Friday, July 18, with services at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. and activities throughout the week. For more information, call (770) 786-6841 or go to

For more coverage, see the July 20 edition of The Covington News.