BY JEFF FINLEY
Move over, Kardashians. There’s another family with a nationally televised reality show, but unlike their tabloid-ready TV predecessors, the Colgan family provides a viewing experience that’s suitable for the entire family.
The Colgans already are well-known among Free Methodists in Indiana, but they’re now in the national spotlight on a new episode of “Getting Away Together,” which airs on PBS stations. Each episode features a family on vacation.
Because Wabash Park Camp Director David Colgan, a former Wabash Conference superintendent and pastor, and his wife, Peggy, have season passes for the Dollywood amusement park, they received an email offering families the chance to apply to be featured on an episode focusing on the Great Smoky Mountains.
“My dad half-jokingly sent me the information about the contest and said that the description of the family they were looking for sounded a little bit like our family,” said Amy Colgan, a deputy prosecuting attorney for Monroe County, Ind., and member of the Bedford (Ind.) FMC. “On a whim, we decided to write something up and send it in, never really thinking that we would win.”
The Colgans were chosen from more than 400 families who applied to appear on the show. Peggy credited the selection partly to her family’s record of Smoky Mountain vacations. Her grandparents and parents vacationed in the Smokies, and she and David honeymooned there and have visited every year since then. They’ll celebrate their 50th anniversary on June 23.
David and Peggy’s love of the Smokies spread to their three children — Amy; Deron, pastor of the Sugar Grove FMC in Terre Haute, Ind.; and Mark, chairman of the math department at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., and a member of Wesley FMC in Anderson, Ind. Family vacations now include Deron’s wife, Jennifer, and their children Mary, 9; Maggie, 6; and Molly, 2; and Mark’s wife, Kathy, and their adult children, David and Katie.
All of the family members are featured on the show, and they all returned to the Smokies in February for the show’s premiere except Katie, a Taylor University sophomore who’s studying in Ireland this semester.
Vacation Is Priority
The Colgan family places great importance on family vacations.
“Through the years, people have asked us why our kids were so responsive to us. I think it really goes back to the commitment we made early on to go on vacation,” David said. “The kids always knew that was their time, and they had us to themselves totally without interruption.”
Their commitment wasn’t always easy on a pastor’s salary, and sometimes the bank account was depleted when vacation time arrived.
“We took our weekly paycheck and figured we’d pay for (routine family expenses) later,” Peggy said about vacations during her family’s younger days. “We felt like it was that important.”
The family’s luxury cabin in “Getting Away Together” does not reflect the Colgans’ typically low-budget trips, which sometimes have included overnight camping.
“We cooked at the park because we couldn’t afford restaurants in the early days,” Peggy said.
“Some of the memories we have are just priceless — cooking breakfast at a picnic area of the mountains and walking along the creek,” David said.
David and Peggy’s children have embraced their commitment to family vacations.
“Time away with my family is incredibly important. It allows us to reconnect and catch up in a way that we can’t when everyone is busy with their daily hectic lives,” Amy said.
“Getting away with family members has always been a high priority for us. We try to take at least one trip each year with extended family, one with our own family of four, and at least one with just the two of us,” Mark said. “Some of our best memories as a married couple have been traveling to various places.”
Public television is not known for faith-based content, but the Colgans’ light still shines in the episode.
“I was really thrilled with the positive response that we got from people who saw the premiere. People would come up and say, ‘You know I really appreciated the spiritual dynamic that came through,’” David said. “That was just heartwarming that they caught something in our family.”
During a dulcimer lesson in Cades Cove, the instructor played “Amazing Grace.” The family sang along spontaneously. The scene made the episode unlike many hours of filming that didn’t air.
“We prayed before filming that the Lord could somehow use this experience, and I think the finished program does have an inspirational message about the importance of faith and family,” Mark said.
Where to Watch