COLUMBIA—Two hours before the music began, 90-year-old Eliza Hoffman of Columbia was seated front and center in the multipurpose building at the Boone County Fairgrounds on Tuesday afternoon.
“She doesn’t get around as much anymore, and this is something she really enjoys,” said her daughter, Dorothy Coleman, 74.
The mother-and-daughter pair showed up to hear the Nashville Church Band perform at the fair’s Gospel Night.
“We’ve listened to them at all different places,” said Hoffman’s sister, Ann Calvin of Hallsville. “They’re really good.”
Gospel Night was introduced at the fair seven years ago when Harold and Wanda Cunningham, who live near Sturgeon, joined the Fair Board.
“We wanted to bring back some of the traditional fair values,” Harold said. The Cunninghams reintroduced gospel music to the fair, as well as Family Fun Night, which was held on Monday.
“Everybody loves it,” Harold said of the music. “Especially the older generation.”
Praises to Him, a husband-and-wife duet from Paris, Mo., and the Nashville Church Band performed back-to-back shows on the multipurpose room’s stage.
The Nashville Church Band, made up of 14 members, played its first show at the Missouri State Fair in 1990.
“Our music is basically country gospel and Southern gospel, and we throw in arrangements of old hymns,” said Jerry Livingston, who plays the mandolin and the fiddle and lives in Columbia. “The audiences we play to really enjoy the old gospel music.”
Besides the music, Rachel Martin, of Ashland, said she had two reasons for being in the crowd.
“It’s cool, for one thing, and there’s a place to sit,” she said.
Martin and friend Bonnie Bullard, also of Ashland, have been coming to the fair for more than 50 years and know several members of the band.
“We went to high school with a bunch of them, I’ve worked with some,” Martin said. “We all know each other around here.”