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The simple life
Family and fellowship at Campmeeting
1 Campmeeting pic3
Kristin Leslie leads a small tour through her family's "tent" at Campmeeting. For Leslie's family, coming to the yearly gathering at Lumpkin Campground has been a tradition for generations. - photo by Frank Reddy Dawson Community News

It’s difficult for Kristin Leslie to imagine a world without Campmeeting.


For the 28-year-old, it’s always been a part of life, a weeklong break from busy times.


Leslie and at least 1,000 other people came together last week at Lumpkin Campground for a time of worship, reflection, fellowship and tradition.


The gathering, which ran from July 19-25, marked the event’s 180th anniversary.


Leslie, who has not missed Campmeeting since she was born, said she enjoys “the tradition of it all.


“With my family, we’ve never had a ton of tradition. We’ve never had a huge, extended family. It feels sort of like a big family when we’re here,” Leslie said.


“This is our big tradition.”


That tradition, she said, is steeped in simplicity.


“Everybody kind of sits around and visits,” she said. “Nobody has any TVs or anything like that here. It promotes the type of fellowship you don’t always get in the real world. The simple life brings people together.”


The simple life starts with wooden cabins, where families eat and sleep.


The cabin — or “tent” — that Leslie’s family stays in not only lacks a television but air conditioning, which made last week particularly challenging.


According to the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, temperatures in north Georgia reached the upper 90s last week, threatening to break nearly 50-year-old heat records.


Longtime Campmeeting attendee Larry Taffar said it was the hottest event he could remember.


“It was so hot,” Taffar said. “Man, it was brutal. It really is like going back 40 or 50 years when most folks didn’t have AC.”


But Taffar said it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed with watermelon, homemade ice cream and electric fans.


Leslie agreed.


“Tons and tons and tons of fans,” said Leslie, who braved most of last week without air conditioning. “You don’t sleep as late when it’s this hot. I know that now.”


Despite the heat, Leslie said she wouldn’t trade the primitiveness for comfort.


“It’s all about keeping the traditions,” she said.


Fellow camper Justin Denard, 18, is big on tradition too. He helps sustain one of the oldest ones at Campmeeting.


Back in 1910, his ancestors introduced a novel way of signaling the start of church service every day. They blew on a conch shell.


Campmeeting’s other peculiarities include the annual whitewashing of trees.


On the night before Campmeeting begins, volunteers dip brooms in paint, covering the bottom of tree trunks. The white color helps campers navigate the grounds at night.


Church services in the arbor — the central structure — are held three times a day.


The week of services culminates with the final gathering on Sunday night. Taffar said this year’s final service drew at least 1,000 people.


“It was a good week of revival and family get-togethers,” Taffar said.


In her 28 years of attending, Leslie considers every week at Campmeeting a good one.


“For a few days out of the year you take a step back in time and go a little bit slower. I think that’s what’s so great about it.”