"Every year, I know something special is going to happen the first night," Perry said. "The music and the messages between are inspiring. It gives me time to look at myself and have a lot of reflection." Perry wasn't alone while she was waiting for her husband, Floyd Hubert Perry, and her mother, Clara Decker, who is traveling from Urbana, Ohio, to arrive today. More than 20,000 visitors are expected to attend the convention , and Friday's concert in Warner Auditorium on convention grounds adjacent to the Anderson University campus was expected to draw a crowd of more than 7,000.
"I'm amazed to see how many people they can get in, and everyone in the choir and orchestra," Perry said.
Perry, 63, said she has been coming to the Church of God convention for 50 years, and attended Anderson University when it was still called Anderson College.
"Definitely the buildings have changed and it's a much larger campus, but the fellowship here is excellent and it's worth seeing all your friends," Perry said.
While the Church of God sponsors most of the events during the convention, Friday's opening concert was sponsored by Anderson University. Other events the university sponsors during the convention include Friday's golf outing and a book signing by Gustav Jeeninga at 10 a.m. today.
"We're just really thrilled to be part of the convention and the kickoff," said Chris Williams, director of public information at Anderson University.
Coming to Anderson University every year for the convention has become a family tradition for Evelyn Baylor that she has passed on to two other generations. Baylor went to the convention for the first time in the late 1940s and has since brought children and grandchildren to it.
Baylor watched her husband, David, and son-in-law, Clint Dunn, perform with the choir during the opening ceremony with some of her children and grandchildren.
"I just feel this is an important thing for the family to do together," Baylor said.
--DUSTY RICKETTS is a staff reporter for the the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.