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Tour of tents, 5K race highlight activities at Salem Campmeeting Saturday

COVINGTON, Ga. - The “tenters” at Salem Campground will host a Tour of Tents this Saturday, July 13, as part of a full day of activities at the historic campmeeting that begins with a 3.1-mile foot race at 8 a.m. 

The Salem Tour of Tents will provide visitors the opportunity to learn about some of Newton County’s oldest structures and get a behind-the-scenes look at how multi-generation families live in the historic buildings during annual the eight-day campmeeting taking place July 12-19. 

The campground, where campmeetings have been held since 1828, is on the National Historic Register. The oldest tent, occupied by the Ramsey family, was built in the 1840s, though most tents date from the early to late 1900s. The tabernacle, at the center of the campground, was built in 1854 and will also be open during the tour.  

The tour runs from 1 to 3 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Most tents will provide after-lunch snacks and desserts including homemade ice cream. 

“This is not an ordinary tour of homes,” Jane Langford, a Salem board member helping to organize the event, said. “It’s a window into the past that has played such a significant role in the religious and cultural heritage of Rockdale and Newton counties.”

Attendees are encouraged to walk the campground and visit tents included on the tour which will be identified by ribbons placed on the front porch. Though campmeeting attendees call their structures “tents,” they are more accurately described as cabins. 

“We call them tents because during the 1800s when families arrived at campmeeting in wagons, they would pitch a tent as shelter for the week,” Langford said. “Eventually, families began building permanent structures, but the name 'tent' stuck.”

In fact, some of the older tents resemble barns more than cabins and come with dirt floors covered in pine shavings. 

The campmeeting tradition, a distinctly American contribution to the history of Protestantism, began in the early 1800s, providing farm families a time to gather for fellowship, worship and the chance of salvation during the “laying by time” of late summer when crops were established but not yet ready for harvest. 

Today’s Salem features a full week of daily worship services, Bible study classes and special activities for youth and adults. 

The Tour of Tents is just one of many activities taking place at the campground Saturday. The day begins with the Salem Sweet Spirit 5K Race at 8 a.m. 

The race follows a cross-country-style course along shaded woods trails and around the campground. Participants can register at: Registration fees are $30 or $15 for the fun run. Race day registration is available. 

Additionally, the campground will host the Wide World of Salem Sports with field day activities for youth and adults beginning at 9 a.m. 

At 10:45 a.m. worshipers will gather under the tabernacle for the morning service featuring special music by the Smyrna First United Methodist Youth Choir. Dr. Bill Britt, pastor of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, will deliver the sermon. 

A barbecue lunch provided Dry Your Eyes food truck will immediately follow the morning service.  The Tour of Tents begins at 1 p.m. Then beginning at 7:30 p.m. an evening worship service will round out the day’s activities with special music by the Social Circle Baptist Church Choir and a sermon by Dr. Carlos Sibley, pastor of Watkinsville First Baptist Church. 

For more information, contact Joe Cook at 706-409-0128 or e-mail at