Newton, NC – One of the popular activities of the Soldiers Reunion patriotic festival in Newton for decades has been the outdoor, free gospel music concert, this year to be highlighted by a duo of “Deep South” singers whose performances are of star quality, according to Reunion planners.
The main act of the musical show beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, August 15, will be Jeff and Sheri Easter of Lincolnton, GA, according to Michael Burke, who annually coordinates plans for the audience-friendly program.
They will sing on the east side of Courthouse Square, facing College Avenue, when the audience will come with folding chairs and blankets to spread on the lawn of the 1924 county courthouse.
Sheri & Jeff Easter
The lead-in act will be gospel music by an area family noted for their crowd-pleasing music, Burke added. Eric and Laura Ollis of Morganton will sing with their two young sons, Payton and Mikey, Burke said.
He added that long-time Reunion events emcee Mike Sherrill, known for his local radio shows, will once again be master of ceremonies.
The Easters are both members of acclaimed musical families, Jeff’s father being one of the Easter Brothers and Sheri’s mother as a member of the Lewis Family. Burke said they “grew up surrounded by the sound of people praising God through their musical gifts.”
The couple have performed on their own since 1988. Also joining them nowadays are son Madison, who plays electric guitar for the group, and daughter Morgan, who often joins them on occasion for a solo. Greg and Charlotte Ritchie have been added to their ensemble; their son, London, even adds comedic highlights to the group’s performances.
The combo have won musical awards and a Grammy nomination, with honors from the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association and the International Country Gospel Music Association.
Eric & Laura Ollis and sons Payton & Mikey
They have participated in the Gaither Homecoming video series since 1993, which has sold over 15 million units.
For more than 25 years, Burke explained, Eric Ollis has been a mainstay in Southern gospel music, having spent 15 years with Ed O’Neal and the Dixie Melody Boys. He sang seven years with the Whisnants and has performed on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, Hee Haw and other venues.
In 2011 he embarked on a new venture with his wife and their older son Payton on the stage as Eric and Laura Ollis. Mikey joins in each night for a song or two. The family has gained radio popularity with musical releases, and Burke said they “bring true family harmonies with a light and easy Appalachian feel.”
The general chairman for the 127th yearly August patriotic festival—which draws crowds to a week-long series of activities, Wayne Dellinger, a former Newton mayor, said the gospel program attracts a crowd from throughout Catawba County.
Top photo: Jeff and Sheri Easter will be the main performers at the gospel music program of Soldiers Reunion, outdoors on Courthouse Square on the evening of Monday, August 15.
Bottom photo: Eric and Laura Ollis and their sons Payton and Mikey will perform at the gospel music program during the week-long Soldiers Reunion patriotic festival in downtown Newton.