By Sherrie Norris
Sunday, June 26, will mark not only the 96th year of Singing on the Mountain in Linville, but it also signals the end of the annual gathering, known as the longest-held event of its kind in the area, and possibly the state and nation.
The announcement was made in January that this would, indeed, be the last year for the singing. The news was met with a wide range of reactions — from sadness, to disbelief to reluctant acceptance and understanding that all good things must come to an end, eventually.
In a statement prepared by the SOTM board of directors, it was announced that the all-day, free gathering of gospel singing and fellowship was coming to an end.
Founded by Joseph Larkin Hartley in 1924, the event has been held on the fourth Sunday of June at the base of Grandfather Mountain for nearly a century, with few exceptions, and always in a spirit of faith and community.
“This final event,” said Kenny Hartley, on behalf of the Hartley family and board of directors, “will be a simple celebration of Granddaddy and his legacy — and a thank you to all the loyal folks who made the singing possible for many years, including dedicated singers, musicians, those who parked cars, brought food, cleaned up the grounds, set up the stage, provided utilities, security, and safety and rescue personnel. This has truly been a labor of love for our family and many others.”
Hartley went on to say that the Hartley family reunion will be held on that day, as has been a longtime custom, and others who plan to attend are invited to bring a picnic lunch and lawn chairs for their families, as well.
“Enjoy a day of praise to the Lord at the base of His beautiful mountain in MacRae Meadows, in Linville from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and help us to honor those who came before us and made a memorable mark inspiring so many lives.”
Following the death of the event’s founder and their father, brothers Robert and Joe Lee Hartley served as co-chairs of the event from 1966 until 2010. The duo expressed, on countless occasions, their gratitude for the support of Grandfather Mountain and especially its owner, Hugh Morton and his staff, in helping to keep the event alive.
After many years of supporting the event, Grandfather Mountain’s Stewardship Foundation decided that the singing was outside of its stated mission and tax deductible status, so chose to offer the Hartley family the opportunity to take over the singing. In 2017, the Singing On The Mountain Foundation was formed; the 2018 event went on without a hitch, only to be interrupted two years later by the pandemic.
The Hartley family descendants were happy that the singing at least reached its 95th year— signifying the number of years its founder and their beloved grandfather had lived. That was an important milestone for the family to have reached before later having to make the difficult decision to end the long-held event, altogether.
And so it is that in just a three weeks, the meadows will come alive for its final Singing on the Mountain, with folks expected to come from near and far for the farewell gathering.
And, as the elder Hartley always said – offering an invitation that never wavered and still holds true today — “Whosoever will may come.”
A long List of Special Guests
Through the years, celebrity guests for the event have included Billy Graham, who in the early 1960s, attracted “the biggest crowd ever to the mountain” said the late Robert Hartley; Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Bob Hope, Oral Roberts, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, David Jeremiah, Zig Ziglar, Carroll Roberson and many others have also brought large crowds to Linville.
A “major player in the overall success of the singing,” Robert Hartley once described, was Arthur Smith and his brother Ralph, who were regulars for many years and introduced George Hamilton IV to the event, who also found his niche there.
This year’s line-up of special guests to be featured on stage throughout the day will include some familiar names to the area, and some who have been a part of the event for many years, including Michael Combs,The Cockman Family and Patricia Smith, joined by Erica McKinney, The Dave Calvert Collective, and New Covenant.
The music begins at 9:30 a.m. and will conclude at 2: p.m.
A spokesperson for the Hartley family shared, “The Hartleys are forever grateful for the support through the years and we pray that many people have been blessed by the seeds of faith that the Lord asked Joe Hartley to plant in 1924.”
It is also the family’s hope that this final event will serve as tribute of their gratitude for those who have been so loyal, including the many volunteers who have been there to help with logistics, especially parking, for as long as they can remember.
Everyone is encouraged to bring a picnic, a lawn chair and be a part of this historic final Singing on the Mountain.
The Singing grounds are located on US Highway 221, two miles north of Linville and one mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
For more information, visit www.singingonthemountain.org
Scenes Throughout the Years of those gathering for Singing on the Mountain.