Gospel singing continues on with 41st year

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published July 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated July 12, 2013 at 9:58 a.m.
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From the left, Chris Bennett, Chip Distin and Allen Hoover are members of N Him, an all-male gospel trio based in Olive Branch, Miss. The trio will perform this weekend at the 41st annual Sugarloaf Southern Gospel Singfest in Heber Springs.

— Christopher Bennett didn’t want to let a 40-year tradition fall by the wayside, so this year, he is in charge of the 41st annual Sugarloaf Southern Gospel Singfest in Heber Springs.

The event will take place Friday and Saturday at the Heber Springs Park Amphitheater. Friday’s festivities will begin at 7 p.m., and Saturday’s will start at 6 p.m.

“This is the 41st year for the singing,” Bennett said. “I started singing in it with a group of guys when I was 13 years old, and I’ve been there every year since then.”

Bennett said the only thing different about this year’s singing is the name.

“Before, it was called the Bud Magness Memorial Singing, but the name changed this year,” Bennett said.

The event has been held the third Friday and Saturday of July ever since the event started, 41 years ago.

Bennett is a member of N Him, an all-male trio gospel group that has been together for about 22 years.

“We’re based out of Olive Branch, Miss.,” Bennett said.

Although the group tours around the country, it always makes a stop at the annual gospel singing event.

“It’s always been very well attended,” Bennett said.

Bennett grew up in the area and is a graduate of Quitman High School.

“It’s always great to come to something like this,” Bennett said. “I enjoy the tradition that [the singing] has.”

The long-standing tradition has people who were at the first gospel singing event coming back every year to hear music, Bennett said.

Attendees will hear anywhere from several acts each night, Bennett said.

“They aren’t just groups from Arkansas,” he said. “We’ve got groups from Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi.”

Along with a master of ceremonies who hosts the event, music will be played for two to three hours each night, Bennett said.

“You’ll hear seven to eight groups per night,” Bennett said.

Bennett said that once the music begins, seats are hard to come by at the Heber Springs Park Amphitheater, the traditional location for the event.

“The amphitheater has bleacher-type seating, and there’s a grassy knoll past that. Those seats are normally full in the theater, and people are bringing chairs to sit in the grass,” Bennett said. “There’s always a big crowd.”

Staff Writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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