The Mount Bethel Retreat Center in King George has become known for the weddings, family retreats and workshops that all take place on the waterfront property. This year, the center is adding a jazz music festival to its event lineup.
Jazz in the Country Inc., a nonprofit organization, is putting on the first ever Jazz in the Country music festival Saturday from 1-8 p.m. to help raise money for the center’s expansion.
The music festival, hosted by comedian Sean Sarvis, will feature five jazz artists and bands on the center’s grounds. Food vendors from the King George area will also be at the event.
The festival was conceived by King George resident Larry Robinson, who is the pastor of Little Ark Baptist Church and a member of the Baptist Church Association. Robinson said he wanted to give back to the center, which has been a part of his life since he was a kid.
“I actually grew up around and worked on the retreat center when I was growing up back in the ’60s. So just trying to find a way to raise some money to help them to upgrade and develop and grow a little bit that’s all. That’s where it came from,” he said.
Festival organizer Joan Waters added that the nonprofit wanted to help the center grow because it believed in the center’s vision. “We believe it’s a great cause because what they want to do—they want to expand their facilities so that they can also expand what they offer the community,” she said.
Waters also said that supporting the center is only one part of its goal. “It’s really twofold—supporting the center and also promoting tourism in King George.”
The organization hopes to attract around 500 people to the festival this year and pull in guests from surrounding areas to help build tourism in King George.
“I mean I personally hadn’t even heard of the place before November of last year, but I do know several people who have attended retreats and different gatherings there in the past,” said Waters.
Saxophone player Merlon Devine, from southern Maryland, will be one of the performers featured at the festival.
Devine, who has been playing the saxophone for 34 years, said he and his band will play songs from their summer tour, which he said is a “mash-up” of original and popular songs.
“Things you listen to on outings or long drives to the beach and things like that, we’re going to play some of that music to kind of keep people in the mode of summer,” he said.
Festival headliner Cindy Bradley, a musician from Buffalo, N.Y., has been playing jazz music for over 20 years. She will give the last performance of the day at 7 p.m. Other performers include Energico Jazz, 4 The Road Band, and Chelsey Green and the Green Project.
“I’m really excited because it’s such a good cause … especially for the youth,” she said.
All ticket proceeds from the festival are going to the expansion of the Mount Bethel Retreat Center for things like future summer camps, recreation activities and community outreach programs.