by Pastor Roy McGregor
First Baptist Church, Collingwood
For more than twenty years the Town of Collingwood has hosted an Elvis Presley tribute festival. Scores of Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs) compete for bragging rights and cash prizes. The festival attracts participants from around the globe. It is the largest Elvis tribute festival in the world!
Thousands of people arrive in Collingwood, filling the main street with lawn chairs, each vying for the best spot to cheer on the competitors. The Town takes on a carnival atmosphere with food and a host of retail booths selling all kinds of memorabilia and clothing. Restaurants and shops located in the downtown core move outside to accommodate the many visitors.
This year, First Baptist Church decided to use this event as an opportunity to welcome the visitors. Located in the historical section of downtown Collingwood, the streets around the church building become prime parking spots. Recognizing this, we decided to distribute free bottles of cold water to the many visitors and residents who walk by the church building on the way to the Saturday parade.
A church member contacted long-time friends at Ice River Springs and they generously donated fifteen cases of water to the project. On Saturday morning, members of First Baptist arrived early and began handing out the bottles of cold water. We were shocked by the response! In just over three hours all 360 bottles had been given to very appreciative people.
We heard comments ranging from, “What are you promoting? How much does it cost?” and several times were told that churches didn’t do this anymore. It gave us the opportunity to introduce many people to First Baptist. On top of that we had a lot of fun!
On Sunday, the festival organizers arrange for a gospel service in the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena. Some churches cancel morning services to encourage their congregations to participate. First Baptist has participated for several years.
This year, I was the speaker tasked with bringing the Gospel message to the many un-churched people that attend the service. Approximately 1000 people fill the arena to enjoy the ETAs and sing along to Elvis’ gospel hits. It is a wonderful opportunity for the church to connect with the community. Several members of the church served as ushers collecting the love offering that is used for ministry in the community.
In reviewing the event, it was a unanimous decision that we will participate in future festivals, seizing every opportunity to touch our community in Jesus’ name.
If you have not attended an Elvis Festival, take a vacation and come to beautiful Collingwood! If you visit, we’ll see you there!