In its early years, Festival of Sharing was called the Bishop’s Convocation. It was planned by United Methodists in Missouri and held at the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Trowbridge Livestock arena. The day involved the gathering of various kits and food for the hungry and the distribution of live animals and blankets to outside organizations such as Heifer Project International (Now Heifer International) and Church World Service.
One year, the convocation welcomed a unique guest speaker. American country comedian, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, more professionally known as Minnie Pearl, performed and spoke for the 1,500 attendees. Wearing her infamous yellow straw hat, Minnie Pearl spoke of Grinders Switch, the mythical place where she lived and where there was no sickness, poverty, and where you mostly worried about what you were going to wear to the church social. After her performance, Sarah stepped out of the persona to share the story of her career, faith in God, and concern for those less fortunate in the world. Her time and travel for the performance that day was donated as charity. She spoke of being a Methodist herself and the importance for people in show business to pay their dues through charity performances. Later in the day, attendees took up a collection and purchased a heifer to be named Minnie Pearl and donated in her honor.
Having an iconic performer join the Bishop’s Convocation (later known as Festival of Sharing), both in terms of entertainment and as a witness of faith, is a special moment in our program’s history. Sarah was respected by communities in and out of country music and was instrumental in the history of Music City U.S.A. (Nashville, TN) and the Grand Ole Opry. We appreciate her acts as a United Methodist laywoman and celebrate the trail she blazed for female entertainers.
Drummond, B. (n.d.). Minnie Pearl tells of simple pleasures. Columbia Missourian.
Moore, B. (2019, September 13). Meet Minnie Pearl: Legendary and unifying force. The Boot, https://theboot.com/who-is-minnie-pearl/
Exploring the past and the present of Festival of Sharing.