By Curt Yeomans
First Baptist Church of Jonesboro's Recreation Outreach Center was filled with the "sis-boom-bah" of military marches and fast-paced beats of Dixieland jazz on Thursday, when the church hosted the Air National Guard Band of the South.
The band, which is based out of Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, brought its concert band as well as one of its rock bands to Jonesboro for a Fourth of July-themed concert hosted by the church's Senior Adults Activities ministry. The concert band performed in the morning to a crowd of more than 200 people.
During that performance, the band performed a variety of songs, including John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," the official songs for the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, Georgia's official state song, "Georgia on my Mind," and singer Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A."
"It's our American heritage," said Mary Barton, the church's director of senior adult activities. "Our church is really patriotic, and the seniors enjoy anything patriotic because it's something we can feel proud of. We've got a big nucleus in our of group who were in World War II, or the Korean War, or Vietnam, so they are big supporters of patriotism."
Barton said she organized the concert because one the band's members, Sam Treadwell, an Air Force retiree, is a member of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro. He had suggested to her that the church try to get the band to perform at the church sometime, and Barton was able to set it up this year because the band was spending its week-long Fourth of July tour in the Atlanta area.
"The seniors meet every Thursday, and we do a patriotic program every year to celebrate the Fourth of July," Barton said. "We were glad to have the band to really make it patriotic this year."
The 25-member band also performs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida, said band spokesperson Tech. Sgt. Julie DeMott.
DeMott said songs like "Stars and Stripes Forever" and other Sousa marches are traditionally popular with the crowds the band plays before.
"All those marches are the heritage of this group," DeMott said. "John Philip Sousa was the conductor for the Marine Corps Band for a long time, so that's sort of the heritage for any military band ... With the marches, that rhythm gets people's feet tapping and it lifts everyone's spirits."
McDonough resident, Diane Dolson, said she loved the concert because she liked hearing all of the songs that carried patriotic themes. "I just liked all of it," Dolson said. "I especially liked hearing 'God Bless the U.S.A.' because I've just always loved that song."
Jonesboro resident, Maxine Lovingood, said she enjoyed the concert because she has a son who is an Army veteran, and another son who is an Air Force veteran.
"That made it more enjoyable because you had the combination of a military-attached band, and they were playing some patriotic music," Lovingood said.
"It means a lot being that the Fourth of July is coming up this weekend and all," said Genor Hazelwood, another Jonesboro resident who attended the concert with Lovingood.
Fernandina Beach, Fla., resident Arthur Nelson, 88, was in town visiting a friend who attends First Baptist Church of Jonesboro.
Nelson said the concert reminded him of when he was a trombone player in an Army band during World War II. During that war, Nelson was stationed in Charleston, S.C., for two and a half years, and then on the USS New York in the final year of the war.
"I liked it when they played 'Georgia on my Mind' because that was our theme song when I was in the Army band," Nelson said. "They were popular then, and they are still popular tunes today. They [are] just good songs."