‘Jamming on the Greenway’: Tennessee corps reaches community through summer concerts

By: David Ibata

One doesn’t often speak of “Salvation Army” and “summer music festival” in the same breath, but the combination is a popular community outreach in southeast Tennessee.

“Jamming on the Greenway,” by the Cleveland, Tennessee, Corps, returned for its fourth season in June with a new component: Food trucks. “The music is free (the food isn’t) and it’s family friendly,” said Corps Administrator Sergeant Ruth Forgey, who started the event for the corps.

It happens from 7 to 9 p.m. Fridays every June and July. This year, nine acts over nine weeks were booked for the public park at Raider Drive and the Cleveland Greenway, a walking/biking trail that runs eight miles along South Mouse Creek through town.

“’Jamming on the Greenway’ is a weekly evangelical outreach, and a subtle ministry,” Sergeant Forgey said. “It’s put on by The Salvation Army, and we’re very visible with the shield; everyone knows it’s The Salvation Army. We open and close in prayer. But the music is not just defined by worship music.”

This year’s opening act June 1 was Edward & Jane, an up-and-coming band, originally from Cleveland, that describes its genre as “Americana/folk.” Other nights offer Southern Gospel, bluegrass or folk, but most of the time – no surprise, this is Tennessee – it’s country.

“Jamming” started with an audience of 15 to 20 people on Monday nights. Last year, the event moved to a Greenway stage and drew 80 to 120 people per concert. “This year, we hope to grow it even bigger,” the sergeant said.

As adults spread out on the lawn in front of the stage, children 12 and under can attend a nearby Backyard Bible School, participate in an activity and hear Bible stories.

The corps also sets up tents selling T-shirts and handing out free water and literature. The corps’ Inman Coffee House has its own tent and offers free iced coffee to concert goers.

“Jamming” isn’t intended to be a fundraiser. The bands usually play for free, to get exposure, and a local donor covers a modest travel stipend to performers coming from far away, from Nashville or Atlanta.

And it isn’t as big of an event as the Phoenix Fest in October with the Inman Coffee House. For that one-day festival, the corps closes Inman Street in front of its building, sets up a stage where a dozen bands perform, and draws upwards of 500 people.

“It’s just a way to be approachable to the general community who’s looking for something to do on a Friday night,” Sergeant Forgey said. “We’re a small town and county with 100,000 people, and if you don’t want to drive 45 minutes to Chattanooga, this is something that’s available.”