The 180th year of the Salem Camp Meeting drew to a close Friday with last lingering visits and a floating procession of candle-lit crosses.
This year's camp meeting was marked by surprisingly reasonable temperatures and a raging downpour that let loose in the middle of the main Sunday sermon last week, along with the traditional tie-dye T-shirts, talent show and slide show.
Outside the Cook tent, sisters Renee, 22, and Anna Wunder, 19, of Los Angeles soaked up the remaining hours after a large dinner of leftovers, reminiscing about a week of rising at 7:30 a.m. to their aunt's robust singing and of first kisses received on the camp grounds in years past.
The magic of camp might fade as children grow older, but the pull remains, said Elizabeth Turner, 20, of Newnan.
"It's like Christmas," she explained. "It's lost that layer of fairy dust, but it's still really nice."
For 10-year-old Charles Frazier of Nashville, Tenn., the best part of camp meeting was biking around with his friends and swimming in the spring. And the worst part?
"Church," he said simply, before running off.
But the preaching was a draw for Beth and Chuck Russell of Conyers, who said the messages they heard challenged them and "stirred the pot."
Despite a fender-bender on Salem Road that painted the Tabernacle with the flickering blue of emergency vehicle lights, the cover of darkness provided intimacy as one last communion was given before the candlelight procession.
Pastor Philip D. DeMore gave the final sermon, summing up the significance of the week.
"We're going to have to leave this place and get back to work and back to life," he said, "but don't forget that high and holy moment."