Shortly after the Sacandaga River valley was flooded in 1930, people were drawn to the area for recreation and activities the reservoir provided - among those was the Sacandaga Bible Conference.
Founded in 1936 by the Rev. J. Raymond Mills, who was the pastor of Broadalbin Baptist Church, the 144-acre property was purchased with $1,500 in donations. The tabernacle was built with volunteer labor and in 1937 electricity was added and speakers included Dr. Walter Kallenbach, a blind professional trumpeter.
"There are many facets to the conference," Doug Blanc said Tuesday. "We have the youth camp, adult campers and worship services. The Saturday night concert draws everyone together and makes a nice ending to their camp week. It is also open to the community."
The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen
Doug Blanc, director of the Sacandaga Bible Conference, watches child campers at the playground Tuesday in Broadalbin.
Blanc is both director of the conference and pastor of Broadalbin Baptist Church. He said the conference is independent of the church, but has always been supported by the church.
"The camp came out of the Northfield, Mass. Bible conference movement spearheaded by people like D.L. Moody," Blanc said. "Music was always a part of the services."
Over the years, activities like tennis, miniature golf, horse back riding, high ropes challenge, and even paint ball came about along with swimming and boating, but music and concerts were always an important part.
Administrative Assistant Rebecca Bice said concerts used to overflow from the 150-seat tabernacle to folding chairs and blankets on the grounds around the building. By lifting sidewall coverings, there was air flow to the inside and music to the outside grounds.
"We hope to build the concert series back up to that overflow point again," Bice said.
Blanc said for a few years the concert series and other aspects of the conference had dwindled and he wanted to build it back up.
"There may have been too much focus on youth without enough adult emphasis," he said.
Blanc said the adult volunteers who pitched in around the camp were essential to its operation.
"We have teams of people who fix roofs, put in bathrooms and do housekeeping," Blanc said. "They donate their time, work and even materials to maintain and improve the camp. I don't know what we'd do without them."
Some volunteers stay in the cottages as campers and others in the R-V park. But all said they enjoy the community concerts Saturday nights with the addition of four Friday night concerts this summer.
"We have great concerts," Mickey Hobson of Gloversville said. "It's great family entertainment. All the campers and staff here are really like family."
Hobson was helping clean out one of the camp cottages on the grounds which had recently had new ceilings put in. She and volunteer Sue Kenyon are "a couple of dynamos" according to Blanc.
"You should follow them around and see all the work they do," he said. "The great thing is the volunteers know what they are doing and go ahead and do it."
Kenyon said she has been coming to the camp for 36 years.
"I came with my kids," Kenyon said. "Now they are grown up and I'm still coming."
Kenyon said she appreciated the lift she felt from the concert series.
"It's great music with joyful lyrics," she said. "It's so inspirational."
Hobson said she came to the camp as a teen then came back later as an adult and has been helping out as a volunteer the past 15 years.
"I like that the performers who come here are really good musicians," Hobson said. "There is a nice variety with both vocalists and instrumentalists. That and they are doing it from the heart."
Blanc said musicians who come to perform are not paid and only receive a free-will offering. He said some probably actually lose money on the performance due to travel costs.
"They come here with their big R-Vs, big rigs and buses and all their equipment that costs thousands of dollars," Blanc said. "They have no guarantees about how much money the donations will bring in. They do it sacrificially."
Blanc said for local families, it was a nice time to get away and enjoy some wholesome entertainment. He said the snack barn is open Friday and Saturday night for pie and ice cream and chicken barbecues can be had at 5:30 p.m. prior to the 7 p.m. concert Friday nights. The barbecue is $8, but concerts are free and open to the public.
"The concerts don't go all night - they just last an hour to leave time for snacks and relaxing," he said. "It's a nice family evening away with good quality music to retool and refresh."
Blanc said everyone has been hurt by the economy, and the nearby, inexpensive camping and free concerts should be a good draw.
"The community needs to know we are close by," Blanc said. "If they camp with us, their kids can go to day camp activities free as well."
Concerts started June 28 and will go through Aug. 16 with the Jacobs Brothers southern gospel trio at that performance. Friday night concerts are more youth oriented, with Derek Joseph coming July 18, trumpeter Chiz Rider July 25 and Theophilus Aug. 1. Web site links for each of the performers are available at the SBC Web site, www.sacandagacamp.com.
For more information call 883-3713.
Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.