Fan club ready to welcome “the world” to Hank’s place

Published 10:44 am Thursday, June 11, 2009

The grass is mown and the rose bushes, planted. The “welcome” sign hangs on the front door.

“Now we just need the people to come,” said Mary Wallace as she surveyed the grounds of the Hank Williams Sr. Clubhouse in Georgiana.

“This is our 30th year in Georgiana, but of course, the celebration of Hank here in the county goes back to the ’70s,” Wallace said, as she “set a spell” outside the clubhouse with new board member Sherri Brackin and vice-president John Wise on Monday afternoon.

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At least four different counties have claimed to be the birthplace of the country music legend. However, Wallace says folks like Bama Watson, who taught Hank in the third grade, and Ada Grace, who helped deliver him, could attest Hiram Williams was indeed a native son of Butler County.

“A marker was made testifying to this fact. It was unveiled on the church grounds of Mt. Olive West on Sunday, May 19, 1974. There were 2,000 people there,” Wallace said.

“When they were asked if they wanted to make this an annual celebration, the crowd roared, ‘Yes, yes, yes!'”

After several years with festivals alternating between Mount Olive, Evergreen and McKenzie, the Three Arts Club decided in 1979 to expand the festivities to include a street dance in downtown Georgiana prior to the Sunday event in Mt. Olive.

“Well, that was a lot of fun,” Wallace said with a grin. “When the City of Georgiana decided to purchase the house Hank lived in during his childhood in Georgiana in the early ’90s, that became our wonderful Hank Williams Boyhood Home and Museum. And our Hank Williams Fan Club was born.”

With visitors flocking to Georgiana from across the U.S.A. and far-flung places like Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, “it’s not just four counties claiming Hank these days – it’s the world!”

Festivities begin today from 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. with a picnic and jam session on the clubhouse grounds featuring grilled hot dogs and plenty of live music.

Kicking off at 7 p.m. tonight, fans can enjoy a full slate of favorite performers at the historic Ga-Ana Theatre, with Back Creek, Frank Brannon, Ricky Fitzgerald, Jerry and Lisa Queen, Larry Darnell, Mary McDonald, Colon Leatherwood, John Wise and the “Slim Pickins” Band. These fan favorites will also be performing on the stage of the pavilion Friday afternoon from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday morning from 9:30 a.m. to 12;30 p.m.

Other fan club events include a Songwriter Contest at 11 a.m. this Friday at the Georgiana Nutrition Center, and a southern-style Fan Club Breakfast Saturday morning from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the fan clubhouse (no reservations required). Tickets for the Ga-Ana concert and the breakfast are $10 each.