Just Hankin#039;–People from around the world came to Georgiana to celebrate the life of Hank Williams Sr.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Mother Nature was wonderful this past weekend, allowing for beautiful weather as fans from all around the world migrated to Georgiana to pay homage to a country music pioneer. The crowds of fans numbered approximately 2,000 on Friday night and 3,000 on Saturday.

Beginning with the opening of the gates on Friday at 3 p.m., people piled into the Hank Williams Park by the thousands, in celebration of the music and life of Hank Williams Sr., in his boyhood hometown.

People from as far away as Germany, England and Canada came to be a part of the celebration, which included everything from local band entertainment, to beauty queens, to famous star-studded singers and songwriters, and then thrown together with some of the best food and camaraderie east of the Mississippi.

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Friday's events included a barbecue dinner from 5 – 7 p.m., and musical sounds began emanating to the delight of peoples' senses at 4 p.m. with The Heltons.

At 5:15 p.m., Brad Magnuss and the Flying Buffaloes took to the stage, followed by Mary McDonald and Colin Leatherwood.

When there was almost no room left to park a chair under the covered seating area, some of Butler County's finest beauties took to the stage, all of them winners in the Miss Hank Williams pageant held last month.

Included in the group were: Arizona Shipp, Little Miss Hank Williams, the eight-month-old daughter of Hollie Shipp of McKenzie; Alex Kristen Merry, Toddler Miss Hank Williams, the three-year-old daughter of Justin Merry and Krissy Moore of Georgiana; Caitlin Briana VanCor, Petite Miss Hank Williams, the six-year-old daughter of Ray and Lynn VanCor of Greenville, and Jeff and Alice Cowan of Geneva, Ala.; Jessica Erin Bush, Mini Miss Hank Williams, the nine-year-old daughter of Jeff and Lisa Bush of Greenville; Starla DesiRae Jones, Junior Miss Hank Williams, the 10-year-old daughter of Perry and B.J. Jones of Andalusia; Traci Ann Weldon, Teen Miss Hank Williams, 15-years-old and the daughter of Larry Weldon and Sharron Weldon of Honoraville; and Erica Renea Betterton, the 17-year-old daughter of Frank and Darlene Betterton of Georgiana.

All the winners were presented on stage by Kyle Haynes, who served as emcee.

On Saturday beginning at 7 a.m., more than 300 fans from all around the world gathered at the cafeteria of Georgiana High School for their annual Hank Williams International Fan Club breakfast, and enjoyed exchanging memorabilia, and the music of members of the original Drifting Cowboys, Hank's band.

Following the breakfast, it was back to the Hank Williams Memorial Park, where the entertainment began and continued all day and on into the night.

Fans enjoyed visiting the famous Hank Williams Museum, and visiting with stars as they arrived to prepare for their shows.

Jett Williams, daughter of Hank Sr., escorted U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions on a tour of the museum, stopping to narrate the exhibits along the way.

Outside, children of all ages enjoyed the good-natured fun of being able to "Dunk a Judge," as Probate Judge Mack Russell volunteered for more than three hours atop a dunking booth.

A rock-climbing wall was another favorite attraction for the youngsters.

There were booths set up by arts and crafts dealers for those who liked to shop, a cartoon artist, and also a fortune-telling psychic.

Several political candidates had booths set up, including Tim James, Steve Windom and Diane Harris. All booths were manned by volunteers.

During the afternoon on Saturday, Sen. Sessions appeared on stage to welcome visitors from around Alabama and other states, and other countries, telling of his boyhood in nearby Wilcox County and his love for events where Alabamians gathered to enjoy fellowship.

On Sunday, the festival officially closed until the next year, following a performance by George Hamilton IV at Mt. Olive Church, in the nearby community of Garland, where Hank attended church as a boy.

With more than 250 volunteers working throughout the weekend, Georgiana Mayor Lynn Watson felt as though the event was a huge success. But, most reassuring was that all left following the final act with smiles on their faces, knowing that they had been treated to one more wonderful weekend of quality entertainment, in celebration of one of country music's greatest legends.