Singing Convention Takes Over Benson Singing Grove

The 3 Heath Brothers were the Grand Champions of the 98th annual State Singing Convention in Benson.

Another year of faith, music

Not even scorching heat could dampen the enthusiasm surrounding the 98th annual State Singing Convention this past weekend at the Benson Singing Grove.

Competitors from across the southeastern United States made their way to the Johnston County town where they found a warm and friendly welcome and an appreciative audience.

One new addition to the event was a large tent placed in front of the stage to accommodate fans with some shade.

According to Benson Mayor Jerry Medlin, it was a welcome sight and one he thinks will become a permanent part of the festivities.  “It’s been a great weekend, the weather has been fantastic,” said Mayor Medlin. “The tent has really made a difference, not only with the sunshine, but I believe it’s kept the weather away. We’ve had a fantastic crowd Saturday night and expect a fantastic crowd on Sunday.”

The mayor credited Luby Wood for providing the tent and giving the town the opportunity to experiment with the idea.  “Luby Wood has been wanting to put something up for a number of years now and we had this before the town board at one time,” the mayor said. “We never voted on it. We decided we would put a tent up — he paid for it — and see what people thought about it. Do they want a permanent one or do they want one put up each year?”

No decision has been made but the mayor hopes the town board of commissioners will decide soon. “We’re still going to figure it out,” he said. “We’re going to let the people decide.”

One of the guests to the convention, Louise Bradford, took advantage of the shade afforded by the large tent. She makes the trip from Goldsboro each year to meet family members and take in the music.   “I’ve been coming ever since I was a child,” she said as she listened. “My parents used to bring me and I have an uncle from here so we go have dinner with them on Sing Sunday.”

Mrs. Bradford said the shelter was another nice feature of the event and hopes to see it there again next year. “It’s nice and I love this shelter,” she said. “I hope they make it permanent. Usually you have to keep moving around and I brought a chair, because I didn’t know this was going to be here.”

Mrs. Bradford said the music and the chance to reunite with family are her motivations for making the 40-minute trip annually.  “The good music and some of my people come here from High Point to sing,” she said. “I have some uncles that come here to perform. And I just love the music.” She admits it’s been close to 70 years she’s been coming, first with family, then on her own. “I’m planning on returning next year,” she said. “If I’m able, I’ll be here.”

If Mrs. Bradford does make the return trip to Benson, one of the groups she’ll likely see perform are The Master’s Hands. The trio, currently featuring Clayton residents James Boger, Sharon Jackson and Jackie Narron, has been a part of the contest for the past 15 years, according to Mr. Boger.

Full Reliance received the Consolation Trophy during the State Singing Convention in Benson.

“I enjoy the fellowship you have that you don’t see anywhere else,” he said. “We get to see groups that we don’t meet but once a year. And serving God has always been a thing that keeps us coming out here. It’s an opportunity for us to reach somebody that might not ever hear about Jesus but through this.”

Ms. Narron has been coming to the convention since she was a child. She’s has been a part of a choir in addition to The Master’s Hands.  “The Lord has blessed me to come all these years,” she said. “I’m ready to come back next year and the next year.”

Ms. Jackson, who has also been coming to the convention and performing since she was a child, said it’s a chance to keep her love of  the singing contest alive and growing.

“I’ve always loved the Benson Sing,” she said. “Singing is something I’ve done and enjoyed as a child. It’s my first year here with this group and I’ve been welcomed in very much so and I have had a blast.”

Having a blast is something singing convention board of directors member Robin Stegall is glad to hear. She’s one of the people behind the scenes helping keep the convention going strong as it nears the century mark.

“In our competition and our singing, we’ve had a lot of talent,” she said of the nearly 30 performers who took to the stage. “We’ve had them from High Point, N.C.; Thomasville, Tenn.; Florida, so it’s good to have new people coming into the sing.”

As for the overall feeling of the event is strengthened through the feel of a family atmosphere, she said. She, too, feels it’s somewhat like a reunion that happens to take place in Benson.

“There’s a family feeling is the best term, people talk about it being a reunion of sorts, people you don’t see but once a year,” she said. “There’s friendships made, but the goal of all the singers is to have their soul encouraged and I think we’ve accomplished that this year.”

The 2018 Benson Sing Grand Champion was 3 Heath Brothers.  The Consolation Trophy was won by Full Reliance.  The Daily Record Story

Saturday’s Winners :

Choir Benson Church of God
Junior The Key Sisters
Duet Tate & Marthieah
Trio 3 Heath Brothers
Mixed Trio The Crusaders
Quarter Sheltered Quartet
Mixed Quartet Full Reliance
Family The Maples Family
Bluegrass Mystic River
Live Accompaniment Tate & Marthieah

Sunday’s Winners:

Choir Benson Church of God
Junior The Key Sisters
Duet Tate & Marthieah
Trio 3 Heath Brothers
Mixed Trio The Horrell Family
Quartet Sheltered Quartet
Mixed Quartet The Shockey Family
Family The Maples Family
Bluegrass Mystic River
Live Accompaniment Mystic River
Grand Champion 3 Heath Brothers
Consolation Full Reliance