The rusty chains of the porch swing gently squeaked as Carolyn Dooley relaxed outside her family's Lumpkin Campground tent.
"Campmeeting is something I would never miss," said Dooley, 54. "And in my life I have never missed one."
Campmeeting, now in its 182nd year, began Monday off Lumpkin Campground Road across from Bethel United Methodist Church.
Widely known as a late summer reunion and revival, the weeklong event traditionally features two services each day that include prayer, singing, music, Bible readings, preaching, personal testimonies and altar calls.
For multi-generational Dawsonville residents such as the Dooleys, the place is one of reverence, reflection and fellowship.
"It's a holy place for us. We feel like God is always in our midst here," Dooley said.
Sitting on a 40-acre grove of soaring oaks and pines, the campground is arranged like a small village. The "tents," or rustic cabins, are arranged in a square facing the central arbor, or place of gathering for services.
Dooley said perhaps the most charming part of campmeeting is how little the site has changed other than some cabin renovations, bathroom additions and air conditioning.
"My mother brought me to campmeeting when I was only a week old," she said. "Over the years I have moved from a straw tent with no air conditioning to a concrete tent with air conditioning."
Dan Elliott, 61, also grew up attending campmeeting every summer. He said it is a safe, special place for him and his family.
"Growing up here and being a part of this, it takes you back to the times when you didn't have all the cares and worries of life. It goes back to a simpler time," he said.
With the sound of children's laughter and the organ being played under the arbor, families spend most of their time sitting on the porch and reuniting with friends they may not have seen in a year.
"It's like a whole other world," said Paige Dooley, a 23-year-old college student and Carolyn's daughter. "When you are up here, you aren't in Dawson County anymore, you are away from everything."
At its core, the campground remains a time for spiritual revival and revelation. Some compare it to the Passover in the time of Christ as locals flock to Lumpkin Campground just as Jews traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem.
"We call our place of service the arbor, but I have heard others call it the tabernacle," Carolyn Dooley said.
Lynn Watkins, whose family recently renovated their cabin, said she loves the daily 11 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. services.
"The foundation of campmeeting is getting realigned and revived with the Lord," she said.
Former Dahlonega residents Doris and Ken Irby ventured back to campmeeting this year from their current home in Milledgeville.
As they watched families line up for Monday night's annual tradition of dinner at Gordon Pirkle's tent they summarized the warm feeling. "Campmeeting is a wonderful, quiet time. We love it here."