At 7 a.m. sharp each morning this week, Howard Kennedy has stood outside the Salem Campground tabernacle to sound the trumpet, marking the beginning of the day.
Traveling all the way from Dallas, Kennedy has attended the Salem Campmeeting for 15 years. He is a friend of the Hamlet and Milton families and has found the annual week of spiritual revival and renewal to be a comforting and rewarding experience.
"It's like a big family here," Kennedy said. "It's relaxing and I'm surrounded by good people. It's a neat place to be."
The 183rd gathering at Salem ends today with a candlelight and Communion closing service at 9:30 p.m.
Each morning during camp week, he strolls across the courtyard to the tabernacle to play "Reveille" twice, facing both ends of the campground.
He also marks the end of the camp's day. At 11 p.m., he returns to the tabernacle to play "Taps." He also performs at both services during the day.
"The first year I came, I brought my trumpet, with no intention to play, except for practicing," Kennedy said. "Ann (Milton) told me that they used to have a bugler, but hadn't had one in a long time, so she asked me if I would play ... and I have been doing it ever since."
Kennedy was a physicist for Texas Instruments, developing military infrared equipment for 37 years before retiring in 1996. His wife passed away six years ago and Kennedy now takes to the road each year, traveling from Dallas to Chattanooga, Tenn., to visit his son, then proceeding to the Salem Campmeeting.
He's played trumpet since he was 11. Kennedy loves traditional concert bands and cites John Philip Sousa as a musical influence. Back home, Kennedy participates in a number of large traditional bands, including a 60-piece band and a 12-piece brass ensemble that plays marching songs, show tunes and classical music.
Along with performing at the meeting, Kennedy spends his time at Salem relaxing with friends, attending the church services and Bible studies, and watching the children play baseball.
"The kids are safe here, playing anywhere they want to," he said. "In Dallas, kids don't go out to play anymore because of how dangerous it's become."
"The camaraderie here is what makes this place special for me," said Kennedy. "It's important for me to continue this because of our faith and the traditions here at the campground."