Georgiana prepares for Hank Williams Festival

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Citywide, residents and city employees work fast and furiously to put a last minute &uot;shine&uot; on the city of Georgiana as they prepare for the city’s biggest event of the year – the annual Hank Williams Festival.

Hundreds of Williams’ fans flock to his boyhood homesite to celebrate his life and his music.

City employee Randy Show and his son Mike were busy unloading picnic tables for festival attendees to sit on at the Hank Williams Pavilion.

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Across the street from the museum at the Fan Club headquarters, Bernard and Iris Watson of Ocala, Fla., joined Cecil Bernard of Goldsboro, N.C., in cleaning the rugs and preparing a stage for the jam session to be held tomorrow night.

&uot;We come down here early every year to help out with the preparations for the festival,&uot; Iris Watson said. &uot;We’ve been coming to the festival for the past six years, and we’ve loved every minute of it.&uot;

Fan club president and festival board member Mary Wallace proudly gave me my first tour of Williams’ museum, located in the heart of Georgiana, where museum employee Margaret Gaston was busy dusting, cleaning and making last-minute adjustments to picture frames.

&uot;Everything you see in here was donated,&uot; Wallace said. &uot;Nothing was purchased. We have items from every aspect of Hank’s life.&uot;

Wallace pointed out an area under the house that was Williams’ boyhood home and now serves as the museum.

&uot;This is where he would come to play his guitar,&uot; she said. &uot;People who lived next to Williams at the time told us they would raise their windows so they could hear him play.&uot;

Williams’ following is phenomenal, Wallace said. She recently received an e-mail message from a fan in Russia, who was lamenting his lack of access to the famed singer’s work.

&uot;I had just received a donated box set of CDs,&uot; she said. &uot;So I sent them to him in Russia. It was such a thrill to see how happy it made him. Apparently his father worked with some Americans many years ago who played Hank’s music, and the boy got hooked. Since then, he has been unable to get any of his music there. I’m so glad I had something for him.&uot;

The festival has drawn significant attention from the media over the years, but Wallace was thrilled to learn that this year a production company will be recording the event for planned programs on PBS, BBC and a Nashville music network company.

&uot;I don’t have specifics,&uot; Wallace said, &uot;but if we are featured on any of those networks, it will be fabulous.&uot;

The festival will begin with a jam session and cookout at the Fan Club House Thursday night, June 5, at 5 p.m., and the song-writing contest winner’s announcement at the pavilion the same night at 6 p.m.

The festival gets into full swing, Friday and Saturday, June 6-7. The gates will open Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 7:30 a.m.