By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
A little tug at Donnie Stevens’ heart has grown into a monumental weekend in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.
The inaugural Shaping Clay Jubilee gets underway at 5 p.m. on Friday evening, Oct. 4, with Heaven’s Mountain Band, The Shepherds and the host group, the Stevens Family Tradition. At noon the following day, Steve Gulley opens, followed by the Old Time Preachers Quartet, Jeff and Sheri Easter, The Hoppers and The Isaacs.
Wow. Make that WOW!
And it’s FREE admission!!
The big league lineup came together in the simplest of ways: Someone just wanted to make a difference.
“My brother and I had gotten together last fall and were talking about some things,” Stevens said while visiting the National Quartet Convention. “I think I brought it up to him first, but I had a little conviction put on me that I felt the Lord wanted us to do something for the community.”
The Shaping Clay Jubilee was born. The intent is to shape Clay County by bringing the community and family together by digging into a deep Christian heritage.
“When I was a kid, they used to have an event in Manchester called ‘The Hallelujah,’” says Stevens, who teaches at Clay County High School, his alma mater. “I think the biggest one they ever had, someone said they had about 8,000 people there. I remember it was a huge event that happened every year. We haven’t had anything like that in a long time in our community.”
The dream was one thing. Pulling it off could have been much more complicated. The process left Stevens convinced God was blessing the event.
“The first step we had to take was to go to the Manchester Tourism Commission,” Stevens says.
The commission jumped on board quickly, providing some big bucks to help make the weekend a success. “The Tourism Commission was 100 percent behind us,” Stevens said.
“With that, we had a pretty good start, but we also had to promise them we would bring the goods and that is what we have tried to do,” Stevens said with a smile.
Soon, local businesses added sponsorships and many Clay County churches got behind the festival monetarily or by providing volunteers and equipment to ensure a smooth weekend.
While the dream is to eventually hold the Shaping Clay Jubilee at Miracle Mountain, near Manchester — “We thought it would be cool to have the jubilee on a place called Miracle Mountain,” Stevens smiled — this year it will be held at Pioneer Village, described as a performance and event venue on its Facebook page.
Stevens says Pioneer Village, is “on one of the original historic salt works that were actually destroyed during the Civil War…. It’s kind of a cool little area. It’s a really nice stage area there.”
The Saturday lineup is on par with any local event in the country and Stevens can hardly contain his excitement. “We will be starting off with a good friend of ours, Steve Gulley,” Stevens says. “He used to be the lead man for Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver but he’s had his own band for about five years now. He’s just one of the best singers in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”
The Old Time Preachers Quartet, Jeff and Sheri Easter, The Hoppers and the Isaacs give the event an impressive group of performers.
“We have a good lineup on Friday, too,” Stevens says.
The Heaven’s Mountain Band, from Alabama, and The Shepherds, from Georgia, will share billing with Stevens’ group, the Stevens Family Tradition. Donnie Stevens picks a mandolin for the group.
Stevens was familiar with The Shepherds, who had visited his church, Church of God Worship Center in Manchester but Les Butler, of the Old Time Preachers Quartet, connected the Jubilee with Heaven’s Mountain Band. “Deborah Johnson (of Heaven’s Mountain Band) has been an advocate of the festival since Day One,” Stevens says. “She has promoted it on Facebook and we appreciate what she has done.”
Through Kentucky, Clay County is known for its Tigers, one of the regal names in Kentucky high school basketball. But on Oct. 4 and 5, the small eastern Kentucky community figures to become a place where people join together in praise. “We have close to 30 churches that will be bringing booths and they will have a lot of activities for kids.
“We invite everyone to come. We’d like to see you come to Manchester and visit with us and fellowship with us and praise God with us. We want to have a couple of days of good fellowship.”
To get to Pioneer Village for Shaping Clay Jubilee
Donnie Stevens says getting to Pioneer Village is easy. Most visitors will arrive in Manchester via the Daniel Boone Parkway and going north on US 421 and follow the signs to designated parking areas. “We will have shuttles,” he says. “We have several churches that have volunteered shuttle busses.
“It’s a free event and these are volunteers. We have just been blown away by the outpouring of support we have received.”