ALTON — Dating back to 1846, a historic section of Upper Alton has been known as Pietown.
Soldiers from Illinois regiments of the Mexican-American War would camp near Rock Spring Park on their journey south to the nearby train station. Local women would bake pies and deliver them to the soldiers while the troops camped overnight.
When the Civil War began, the tradition continued as abundant cherry trees contributed to the tasty treats. Throughout World War I and II, Pietown held true to its nickname as women continued to provide pies to soldiers stopping in Alton by train and occasionally guarding cars containing German and Japanese prisoners.
Today, the name Pietown is still widely accepted by community members with pride in Upper Alton.
In honor of the history and in the spirit of ministry, the inaugural Pietown Gospel Musicfest will be held immediately after the Upper Alton Labor Day Parade at Main Street United Methodist Church, Aug. 28 and 29, with Friday hours from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. In an effort to fill a semi truck for the Crisis Food Center, guests are encouraged to bring a canned food item and will receive a free bag of popcorn in return. The second annual Ron Dunning Memorial Car Cruise will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday.
On Friday, Barry, Dan, Greg, Rich, Rick & The Funks will warm the crowd at 6:15 p.m. before Elvis impersonator Steve Davis takes the stage from 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. The Rivertown Sound quartet will follow from 8 to 9 p.m.
Saturday’s gospel groups include The New Jerusalem Singers, Jason McAtee’s Saving One, First Calling, Nevr2L8, Mark Roach, 150 Ministries, Mark & Marqueta Goins and a special surprise performance featuring Andy Raines — The Passion Painter.
“In light of all the things going on around us, we really wanted to provide an event that can bring the Upper Alton community together in a positive environment,” organizer Greg Gelzinnis said. “We want to provide a venue that allows the Upper Alton and Greater Alton faith community to work together for a common goal, one that brings God’s word to the people at a time they need it most.”
The Pietown Gospel Musicfest is produced by Main Street United Methodist Church – Honduras Mission Team and Men’s Ministry group.
“Ron Dunning wanted to do a car cruise for years before he died and it’s a shame we didn’t get it done before he passed,” Gelzinnis said. “We wanted to find a creative way to raise funds for our Honduras mission to cover the costs that go beyond our missionaries’ own personal commitment amount. We believe that by giving this event to the community, a greater achievement will come out of it. The only cost guests will have is concession costs.”
Guests are encouraged to have a pork steak, enjoy an ear of corn, chill with some refreshments and stroll through rows of classic cars. Children will not be left out as they can visit the Kidzone with family games and inflatables.
“We priced our concessions at a fair and low price,” Gelzinnis said. “Everything else is free of charge. Everyone should be sure to attend between 8 and 9 on Saturday night; something special is going to happen and you won’t want to miss it.”
For information, visit www.pietowngospelmusicfest.com. For car cruise information, contact Terry Steward at (618) 567-7012.