Old West comes to Meeker’s Vacation Bible School | CraigDailyPress.com

Old West comes to Meeker’s Vacation Bible School

Amy Hamilton

The spirit of John Wayne is coming to Meeker.

John Wayne impersonator Dr. Gene Howard will be speaking at Faith Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School, which begins Sunday.

“We thought we’d bring him in because this is such a Western town,” Pastor Jon Swope said. “He’ll do a big spiritual, patriotic message on Sunday.”

Each year, the church focuses on a different theme for its Vacation Bible School. This year’s free event, themed “Riding the Trails,” is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday. It is open to the public.

Bringing in a John Wayne impersonator should attract a larger than usual gathering, church member Nancy Murphy said.

“It’s going to make people just want to come and see him,” she said.

Howard will deliver some original poems as well as a speech, “Freedom and Sacrifice.” He will be available to take pictures with the public.

Murphy said she has attended several religious conferences in which Howard was a speaker. The impersonator’s trademark bandanna, cowboy hat and blue jeans are similar to the fabled actor’s Western look. And, Howard looks remarkably similar to the late actor, Murphy said.

Those are qualities that may make attending the event more attractive, she said.

“I was surprised that he would come here,” Murphy said. “It was hard to get him; he’s usually booked in advance for a year. That’s what’s exciting about it.”

Swope said the Vacation Bible School generally attracts about 100 people a night. He estimated this year’s attendance to top that number.

Swope also said that the Bible school tends to bring in people from other churches and some people who don’t regularly attend church.

“It brings some people that we haven’t seen for a while,” he said.

Howard will be one of the people on a church bus canvassing the town Saturday night to sign up children for Vacation Bible School, which is open to children as old as sixth-graders. He also may be seen walking around town in full costume — something that often elicits conversations with strangers.

The kind of publicity the impersonator may bring is good for the church because it can be a gateway to teach children good morals, Murphy said.

“I feel that parents are looking for something good for their kids to go to,” she said. “It’s hard to find that anymore. Parents know they are going to find that at a church.”

Amy Hamilton can be reached at 824-7031.

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