The 185th Salem Camp Meeting begins on Friday, and as final preparations for the nearly two-week long event continue, one couple is plenty busy cleaning, shopping, checking and re-checking every detail -- and a very long shopping list.
For Wayne and Kim Hicks, caretakers of the Salem Camp Grounds, preparing for and helping to stage the historic annual gathering of the faithful is a ministry. And it’s one that they’ve enjoyed for the past 24 years.
Kim explained that back then, Wayne was asked to help with preparations for the camp meeting, since the Salem Camp Grounds’ caretakers were getting up in years. Initially, the responsibility was for four years, but nearly 20 years after that first four years, the Hickses continue to help each year, preparing for hundreds of families who attend the camp meeting.
For the past couple of months Wayne, his nephew Ricky McCurry and his great-nephew John McCurry have worked together to make sure the grounds are ready for visitors. The three men have cut grass, shaved shrubberies and undertaken landscaping at the campgrounds.
Inside the Camp Ground’s Salem Hotel -- which hosts 125 people in its two-story, 22-room building, and the tents (cabins), the men have checked to ensure that electrical wires were intact, plumbing was functioning and other necessities were working properly.
On Tuesday, Wayne and his nephews were pulling out seat cushions to place at the tabernacle, where daily worship services will be held.
As for serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for hundreds of people daily, Kim said the preparation has been a process.
Every year, she and Wayne shop for weeks’ worth of food, making several trips back and forth to select stores for groceries.
Last week, the couple loaded up each of their SUVs with dry goods needed for the event.
This week, Kim said, the couple will pick up a meat order for 700 pounds of chicken, canned goods and other food items.
Kim said during the eight-day camp meeting, they feed about 200 to 300 people per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with three cooks helping her prepare all of the food.
She noted that meals are different each day, but “Salem is known for its famous fried chicken.”
She also is pleased to announce that this year sweet tea will be served with meals, thanks to several requests.
“We were having people bring their own sweet tea,” she said with a smile. “But those who prefer un-sweet tea can still ask for it.”
Even though planning and preparing for the Salem Camp Meeting is a lot of work and is time-consuming, Kim said she and Wayne enjoy making sure everything gets done for guests each year.
“You get to reunite with families, and people who come through the dining halls to eat,” Kim said. “This is where God wants us to be. We are supposed to be caretakers; this is our ministry.”
The Salem Camp Meeting will be held July 12-19, with a daily schedule of events for the entire family, and services scheduled for 10:45 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. each day.
The campground is adjacent to Salem United Methodist Church at 3940 Salem Road, Covington.
The Salem Camp Meeting was founded in 1828. The camp meeting concept originated in Kentucky in 1800 and is a distinctly American contribution to the history of Protestantism, according to information from Salem Camp Meeting. The Salem meeting has been held every year since its founding, except during the Civil War.
Though the hotel is booked for the event, people can register for meals by calling 770-786-6841.
Meals cost: $6.75 for adults and $4.75 for children for breakfast; and $10 for adults and $7 for children for lunch and/or dinner.
For more information about the Salem Camp Meeting, visit the website at salemcampmeeting.org.