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Secrest Memorial Sing a different way to mark New Year's Eve

December 31, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- A longtime local musical tradition reached the 30-year mark Thursday night, offering its usual gospel and bluegrass music sounds.

Some spectators at the Secrest Memorial Sing at Heritage Academy off U.S. 40 west of Hagerstown have been loyal fans of the event and they remembered going to the show when it used to be held at Clear Spring High School.

When Pauline Litton of Hagerstown was asked how long she had been coming to the show, she said, "Oh my, as long as they have had it."

"It's a nice way to spend New Year's (Eve)," Litton said.

Organizers have said in the past that the event is designed to provide "another kind of party" for the community. While others might enjoy imbibing on New Year's Eve, spectators at the Secrest Memorial Sing gather for four hours of music that often is sprinkled with commentary from performers about the power of God.

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Shields Secrest started the concert in 1979. After he died, the show was renamed in his honor.

Ruby Wagaman of Greencastle, Pa., who was attending the show with her husband, John, said she remembered when the crowds used to be double and triple the size of recent turnouts for the event.

Don Sneckenberger, an organizer of the event, attributed the trend to older fans who can't get out to the show like they used to.

"We don't see a lot of new couples," Sneckenberger said. "I wish we did."

About 55 people turned out at the beginning of the concert to hear groups such as The Morning Star Singers, The Skyline Boys, the Guilford Station Bluegrass Band and Danny Figgins, The Singing Policeman.

For Willie Crookshanks and his wife, Claudene, it was their first time seeing the show.

The couple lives in Oakland, Md., and they wanted to do something different.

Willie Crookshanks said he called a radio station in Winchester, Va., to inquire about what musical events were happening on New Year's Eve and he was told about several events, including the Secrest Memorial Sing.

Crookshanks said he enjoys gospel music and remembers seeing groups such as The Couriers in 1957.

"We used to go to Harrisburg (Pa.) for their concerts in the spring and fall," Crookshanks said.

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