Free pie, free ice cream and free tunes have combined to make a popular event Sunday afternoon during Ag Days.

“It is to demonstrate that Jesus is a gift from God, and that receiving Him into your life is as easy as saying ‘yes’ to accepting the free gift,” related Spring Valley Area Ministerial Association (SVAMA) and Valley Christian Center member Maria Klingsheim, speaking of the annual pie social and family concert SVAMA sponsors each year.

This year’s social and concert is the same blessing, but with different tunes. The ministerial association is welcoming singer, songwriter, guitarist, banjo man and toy box lid-player Jack Pearson to the J.T. Snyder Pavilion in Spring Valley’s South Park on Sunday, Aug. 21, with pie and ice cream service, no strings attached.

“This is a completely free event – we will not accept donations,” said Klingsheim. “We’ll have entertainment with Jack Pearson from 2 to 3 p.m., and from 3 p.m. until the pie’s gone, there’s free pie… because our mission is this: ‘We are inspired by the love of Jesus Christ to channel and manage resources for individuals and the community at large.’”

Funds the ministerial association does receive via donations during the rest of the year are distributed to people as needs arise. Representatives from the churches in Spring Valley make up the association, which meets once a month.

“It is beneficial to have a unified group like this in our community,” said Klingsheim. “While some of our traditions may differ, the love of Jesus is the baseline of our organization. We have found great camaraderie with one another over the years and also know how unique it is for a group such as ours to exist in such harmony. We hope this spirit of unity is visible to the community, and hosting this social is just one tangible way we can demonstrate that unity.”

Klingsheim elaborated that ministerial board member Tim Engesser recommended Pearson as the man for the pie social’s entertainment. Engesser knows him personally and felt he would provide exactly the type of multi-generation entertainment they were seeking, she added.

“I don’t think anything says ‘Ag Days’ better than when all ages can come and enjoy an afternoon together,” she said. “He just seemed to be a perfect choice this year, and we are so pleased he is coming.”

Pearson has been “in love with music, words and the meaning of things” for as long as he can remember, according to a biography on his website. He’s California-born but rooted in Alexandria and Minneapolis, where he grew up in the Lutheran church where his father was pastor and his mother played the organ.

“I grew up on hymnody, folk music and early rock and roll,” his biography stated. “I love wood, as did many of my Swedish ancestors and so, naturally, was drawn to the acoustic sounds of wooden instruments. I was smitten by the guitar at a campfire sometime in 1965 and have yet to recover. The banjo came shortly thereafter and also has a special place in my heart.”

He was part of a little folk group in junior high with his brother, Brian, and a couple of friends – Harry and Wendy. Pearson doesn’t remember the name of the group, but he said they had a lot of fun playing salad luncheons and church youth events.

Pearson’s favorite musicians from those days include Peter, Paul and Mary, The Goldbriars, The Kingston Trio, Simon and Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor.

He started writing his own songs and poetry at the encouragement of his high school teacher, Wally Kennedy, and eventually studied fiddle with Mark O’Connor while going to school in Seattle. He then spent a couple of years at the University of Minnesota and taught at a fun music store called The Podium. In those days, he listened a lot to the music of John Hartford and Norman Blake.

Since 1979, he’s performed full-time for kids and families in the Upper Midwest. He said he brings a music and story experience of imagination, spirit, folklore and history on guitar, fiddle, five-string banjo and an assortment of small percussion instruments, including his “one-and-only amplified toy box lid. I’m a songwriter with one foot in our American folk tradition and the other joyfully lost in the landscape of imagination.”

Pearson has worked in schools with children in kindergarten through sixth grade as a performer and a resident artist, and with churches in worship or concerts for children and families. He appeared at the Spring Valley Public Library several years ago as part of the children’s summer reading program and was a hit with the little and big kids alike. He has been married to his wife, Nancy, for 38 years and they live in Minneapolis. Their two adult children, Peter and Kari, are pursuing lives in children’s literature, Peter in writing, and Kari in illustration.

Pearson performs songs with silly titles such as “Velcro” and “Googolplex,” and has been commended by various audience members. Maria Bucka, director of music at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, whose statement was included on his website, stated “your warmth, creativity, sense of humor and incredible musical gifts captivated not only our children, but our adults as well…you have a powerful gift of communication that is a joy to behold.” Another review, given by Venn Blakely, a recreation coordinator at a venue Pearson played in the Village of Westfield, New York, shared, “Jack’s winsome personality, banjo-pickin’ and toy box dancin’ storytelling made for a terrific evening for concert-goers of all ages. His dynamic and energetic rapport with the audience creates a chemistry which is truly unique….”

Klingsheim added her own take on Pearson’s upcoming appearance: “We want to bless the community at large, along with those we serve on an individual basis. Music is inspiring and fun, so we feel that his concert will be a wonderful addition to the Ag Days festivities. We hope people love that it will appeal to all ages. Also, that he can provide uplifting, faith-filled songs in a fun and unique way. Fun music and yummy dessert…how would that not bring people together?!?”

She encouraged grownups to bring the kids, and the kids to bring grandparents.

“In our current world of instant and individualized entertainment options, I cannot say enough about the treasure of live entertainment,” she added. “When we come together to experience something at the same time, there is an energy that isn’t found when we are alone, so come with friends or make some new ones…we can’t wait to see you.”

Although the concert and social are completely free, CDs are available if people want to bring some of Pearson’s music home with them. There is some seating under the pavilion, but it’s limited, so many people bring lawn chairs and/or blankets. Unless the weather is severe, the event will take place Sunday, Aug. 21, at South Park in the J.T. Snyder Pavilion, just to the west of the park entrance off South Broadway, from 2 p.m. to the bottom of the last pie plate.

“If there are people that have never made it out to this before, we’d like to encourage you to make it part of your Ag Days weekend,” said Klingsheim. “It’s always a great time…and the pie is delicious. Jack Pearson will offer entertainment that is sure to bring a smile to everyone’s face.”