Fans flock to Fest

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 8, 2006

It was another &uot;really big show&uot; last weekend as the 27th Annual Hank Williams Sr. Festival came to Georgiana.

Although Mother Nature brought some unwelcome &uot;thunderboomers&uot; on Friday, the weather faired off and allowed a cooler opening night, and &uot;a perfect Saturday&uot; for the annual event, Georgiana Mayor Lynn Watson said.

&uot;I think the rain Friday hurt our local crowd coming in, but the show certainly was a good twosome with Billy Joe Royal and John Conlee,&uot; Watson said.

According to Watson, it was older and very well behaved crowd on hand at the Hank Fest this year.

&uot;I think Ray Price, our headliner, drew a lot of older fans to the event and they were a good crowd…we’ve already got the cleaning up done, basically,&uot; Watson said.

&uot;Overall, it was an extremely relaxed and easygoing weekend, especially considering how busy some of us were.&uot;

Watson also lauded the 80-year-old headliner’s performance, saying Price &uot;sounded as good as he did 40 years ago.&uot;

Fan club member Mary Wallace called this year’s festival &uot;a very, very well-received event.&uot;

&uot;According to the feedback I am getting, most people think it was one of the best shows we’ve ever had.&uot;

The weekend kicked off with a picnic and jam session/talent contest on Thursday night at the Hank Williams Fan Club House.

&uot;We had a real fine time out there Thursday and saw a lot of great talent,&uot; Wallace said. The Jays from Frisco City won the youth talent contest while 22-year-old Chase McGinnis was winner of the adult competition.

&uot;Chase is a good-looking young man with a beautiful voice. We feel like he really has a bright future ahead of him,&uot; Wallace said.

Another showstopper during the weekend was little Ricky Fitzgerald, a 7-year-old musician that Wallace called a &uot;real treat.&uot;

&uot;You know, we are all getting older, so it’s important to put the accent on some of this younger talent, to get them interested in Hank’s music and keep the legend of Hank going. That little fellow (Fitzgerald) stole the show,&uot; Wallace said.

The Saturday morning fan club breakfast also proved a &uot;big success.&uot;

The fan club held a raffle for a guitar donated to the group by Mercury Records, won by Amanda Shepherd of Jacksonville, Fla.

The guitar, presented to Shepherd by headliner Ray Price, featured signatures of the top artists performing at the show along with special Hank Fest guests like George Wallace Jr.

&uot;Boy, did it look great! I wouldn’t have minded having that guitar myself,&uot; Wallace said with a laugh.

Funds raised by the raffle will benefit both the Hank Williams Museum and the fan club.

Charlie McCoy, former program director for the long-running syndicated show &uot;Hee-Haw,&uot; took the stage along with Hank’s daughter Jett Williams on Saturday &uot;and made Jett’s part of the show extra, extra-special.&uot;

Wallace also praised Price’s show, along with the performances of Doug Stone, John Conlee and a lesser-known name who is nonetheless &uot;a big hit with Hank fans,&uot; David Church.

&uot;David is a true fan favorite, we are always pleased when we can get him down here.&uot;

While George Hamilton IV’s planned concert on Sunday afternoon was cancelled due to a death in Hamilton’s family, Wallace said the entertainer promised to work in a trip down to south Butler County &uot;to make it up to us.&uot;

&uot;He promised to make me his guest later this week at the Grand Ole Opry – I told him, ‘George, I love you already,&uot; Wallace laughed.

As she prepared to attend Fan Fair in Nashville this week, Wallace said she plans to &uot;keep in Hankin’&uot; in Music City.

&uot;That is what we do as a fan club. We carry information with us about the festival when we travel. We’ll be inviting folks to come down and see us in Georgiana next June.&uot;

As for Mayor Watson, he plans on a bit of a break from &uot;Hankin’&uot; before &uot;starting all over again for next year.&uot;

&uot;It was a good event. It wasn’t the biggest crowd we’ve ever had, but everyone had a good time and we’ll be ‘in the black’ after paying our expenses. You can’t ask for much better than that.&uot;