Georgiana regroups after Hank Williams Festival

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 9, 2005

One weekend a year, for 26 years, the tiny town of Georgiana has overflowed with folks of all ages celebrating all things &uot;Hank&uot;. This year's Hank Williams Festival was no exception.

Georgiana Mayor Lynn Watson estimates there were some 3,000 people in attendance on both Friday and Saturday nights for performances beneath the big canopy at Hank Williams Music Park.

&uot;It was a very enjoyable weekend. People came out, they had a good time and they left happy – and most importantly, they left safely,&uot; Watson said on Tuesday.

Watson said this year’s event was probably among the top five in attendance since the festival started just over a quarter of a century ago.

&uot;It was certainly our best attendance in the last three years, I’d say,&uot; he added.

The big draw of the weekend seemed to be the legendary group the Oak Ridge Boys, who headlined on Saturday night.

&uot;Yes, I am an Oak Ridge Boys fan from a while back,&uot; said Leesa Massey of Honoraville, who attended with several of her friends on Saturday.

Louise Fox of Luverne, who was attending the festival for the first time, also said she came primarily to see the Oaks.

The Oak Ridge Boys, who took the stage a little after 9 p.m. on Saturday, gave the audience their money’s worth playing for nearly two hours, said Watson.

&uot;Usually, the really big name acts only perform 70 minutes max, but they gave us a full 90 minutes-plus that night, which was great. It was a good show,&uot; said Watson.

The Oaks performed many of their big hits including &uot;American Made&uot;, &uot;Fancy Free&uot;, &uot;Dream On&uot;, &uot;Thank God for Kids&uot; and, of course, &uot;Elvira&uot; and &uot;Bobbie Sue&uot;. The latter two songs brought many fans to their feet and as close to the stage as security would allow to snap photos of the energetic quartet in performance.

The group also performed &uot;Homestretch&uot; penned by Greenville’s Rock Killough, a songwriter-musician who has written a number of songs for the Oaks throughout the years.

Other acts appearing during the weekend included Gene Watson, Earl Thomas Conley, Brad Magness and Jett Williams, along with Colin Leatherwood, Mary McDonald, Garrett Miles, Terry Smith, Hillary and Haleigh Spangler and local favs J.C.’s Pure Country Band and Greenville vocalist Starla Jones.

Jones performed a well-received patriotic tribute on Saturday night.

&uot;She’s just great – what a voice,&uot; commented Jean Sullivan, who traveled from Selma for the festival.

Hank tunes were frequently performed by the weekend's many acts, with Jett Williams kicking off her set with the popular &uot;Jambalaya.&uot;

She also told the audience her dad’s classic song, &uot;Your Cheatin’ Heart&uot; was originally the &uot;B&uot; side filler. It became a hit after a sleepy disk jockey accidentally played the wrong side in the wee hours of the morning and the public clamored for more.

Williams said it was great to be &uot;back home in Alabama&uot; and sent out &uot;a big thank you&uot; to Mayor Watson and the city of Georgiana for another successful event.

Hank Wallace Fan Club President Mary Wallace was &uot;tired but happy&uot; on Saturday evening as she took a break from hawking tickets for a fan club raffle.

&uot;Every year Mercury Records donates a guitar to us and we get the acts to sign it and then raffle it off during the festival,&uot; she explained.

Ed Powell of Center Hill proved to be the lucky winner of the autographed guitar.

&uot;Everything’s gone real well. I am just boned tired,&uot; Wallace admitted Saturday night, adding, &uot;We don’t have any rain this year to worry about – though a little rain would feel nice right about now,&uot; she joked.

The city is now cleaning up and thinking about how to make an even better event next year, says the mayor.

&uot;I think things went about as smoothly as you can expect something with that many people can go. I thank all our many volunteers so very much, because without them, we couldn’t do it,&uot; Watson stressed.