JUST THREE miles North of Fayetteville, right off of U.S. 231, lies a family farm referred to as Shadow Valley. The picturesque farmland was purchased in 1993 by Carlton Brady. His vision was to dedicate every inch of the farm’s sloping landscape to the service of his Lord, and that is precisely what he did. Beginning in 1996, the Brady family, led by Carlton, began hosting gospel singing events out at the farm.
The initial idea overflowed from a passion of Carlton’s, singing. He sang bass in a gospel quartet called The Singing Ambassadors, for several years. In an interview with the Huntsville Times, over 20 years ago, Carlton shared, “I love gospel music, and I just want to share it with people.” Carlton began sharing gospel music on a much larger scale when he opened up his farm to hundreds of people in July 1996. The first Shadow Valley Gospel Music Festival was birthed as herds of people scattered out on the Brady farm. There, ducking in shady spots underneath towering walnut and locust trees, visitors listened as sweet gospel music drifted through the air.
Carlton Brady passed in 2013, but his legacy of sharing the gospel through music remains strong. Greg Brady, one of Carlton’s sons, followed in his father’s footsteps and took over as the festival organizer after his father’s passing. Since the early festival days, a permanent stage, restrooms with shower facilities, camper hookups, and a large covered pavilion have all been added. Greg shared that other improvements such as a golf cart shuttle service and a concession stand have also been added to serve their guests better. With the festival’s growth, the Brady family still tries to keep it simple. For them, the festival is all about the joy of fellowship, both with each other and in the presence of God.
This July, the Shadow Valley Gospel Music Festival had its 27th annual event. Greg shared about the festival, “We try to do it the second Saturday of July, or the second weekend of July, each year. It’s one of the biggest Southern gospel festivals around. This year there were about 1,100 to 1,200 people in attendance. People come from all over. Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Maryland, New Jersey, and Alabama, to name a few.”
Well-known gospel groups such as Greater Vision, The McKameys, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, and The Crabb Family have all made it out to the Brady Family Farm in Fayetteville. Yet even with their astounding talent, Greg admitted, “I’ve had the best gospel groups from all over the world booked at our festival. People who have sung at the Grand Ole Opry, we’ve had them all there. But to me, it’s the people that make the biggest difference; the people that attend. Many of them come back year after year, so it has always felt like a family reunion.”
Greg shared that the festival wouldn’t exist without help from so many. He said, “Our family couldn’t do this without the help of our friends that volunteer and help out each year. Everyone pitches in and works. My wife, Marilyn, and my mother, Ariena, are in charge of the details of the grounds and the flowers. My sister, Angie, works at the front gate. My brother, Todd, and his wife, Emily, cook and run the concession stands. My son, Blake, runs the sound. We have local friends jump in and help anywhere they are needed. We even have friends from Louisiana and Mississippi that come up and cook gumbo and jambalaya. It’s a real team effort.” GN