Every year around this time, as the warm, humid breath of summer fills the lungs and katydids emerge with their droning songs, Suzanne Lindsey picks up a broom and a mop and heads toward her family's "tent" on the historic Salem camp ground.
But "tent" is something of a misnomer, a reference to the days when they actually were tents. The two-story wooden Cowan structure (Lindsey's maiden name) is more of a simple cabin, built in 1934, with open ceilings, wooden shingles, a stair rail worn smooth by decades of touch and walls inscribed by the childish hands of those long gone.
A single bathroom serves all the occupants, though an additional commode was added for elderly relatives, and a cement floor and tin roof are considered modern amenities.
Lindsey's extended family is one of dozens who gather every year at the campground on Salem Road, as they have for nearly two centuries, for a week-long event that is part family reunion, part revival and part summer camp.
This year marks the 180th anniversary of the Salem Camp Meeting, which began as a chance for rural families to hear preachers during the agricultural lull and to reconnect with one another.
This year, young and old will gather again from July 11 to 18 to hear sermons from preachers such as Dr. Philip D. DeMore and Dr. Andrew Purves of Edinburgh, Scotland and music from a variety of local choirs, led by Thomas Roberts, music director for 19 years, and the piano work of twins Alice Walker and Becky Ramsey.
But more importantly, the camp meeting is a return to roots, a chance to spend time with family, pass on traditions and create new history.
While the event is the highlight for many campers' summers, the event itself is an enormous undertaking.
Caretakers Kim and Wayne Hicks have been preparing the grounds for camp meetings for 20 years.
The Hicks have been preparing since October, in a sense, because of extensive renovations to the hotel kitchen that replaced the entire floor and brought in new sinks and kitchen surfaces.
The air-conditioned hotel, which has 46 beds and will host 40 guests this year, serves about 100 meals every day for lunch and about 200 for dinner during the camp meeting.
To feed that many people the Hicks have stocked up on 600 pounds of chicken breasts, 100 pounds of beef, 100 pounds of onions and 50 watermelons as part of their supplies.
Outside, about 160 bags of the iconic woodshavings, which used to be free from local sawmills but now cost about $6 a bag, are laid out on the floor of the Tablernacle, where services are held, and inside the tents.
Families begin preparing their individual tents about a week before the meeting, a process which takes about three eight-hour days, Lindsey said.
Cabins that haven't been disturbed all year are aired out, shutters thrown back and dusty plastic sheets peeled off. There are dirty surfaces to be washed, cobwebs to be chased, the occasional dead bird or squirrel's nest to throw out ("Squirrels are so destructive!" Lindsey exclaimed.) And of course, new layers of wood shavings to lay down.
"You can't do it too far in advance because it just gets dirty again," said Laura Kemp, who has been attending the camp since she was one week old and is one of the first female members of the Salem Camp Ground Board of Trustees. "It's not dust, it's dirt you're cleaning up."
Her tent is one of the "newer" cabins, having only been built in the 1950s, but it still had many signature traces of her father's handiwork, such as a Lazy Susan and a make-shift air distribution flap.
"You can't be up here without remembering people who aren't here anymore," Kemp said.
Stories and memories of Lindsey's grandmother, Montine Cowan, the reigning matriarch of her clan, abound in the Cowan tent.
Now that Lindsey has taken on the mantle of the woman of the household and the one responsible for getting things done, though she hesitates to call herself a matriarch, she can empathize with her grandmother.
"I don't get to visit much. I have so many kids here. I always wondered why my grandmother talked about her not getting to visit much," Lindsey said.
But now that she's the one in charge, she understands, she said, as she worries over the logistics of sleeping spaces, shower schedules and cooking meals.
In one meal, she might feed 25 to 30 kids, a number which can easily double during "Family Reunion" Sunday.
She pauses in washing off chairs and vacuuming beds to give a couple visitors a tour of the tent. Despite the sweat dripping off her nose, she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I just can't imagine not coming," she said. "Yes, it's tiring. I will be exhausted for the week after. But, I can't imagine what it'd be like to not come."