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Georgiana readies for Hank Fest this weekend

They’re cleaning windows, cutting grass, and putting out the welcome mat in downtown Georgiana this week.

Volunteers and fan club members were hard at work on Tuesday preparing for the arrival of country music fans for this weekend’s 31st Annual Hank Williams Sr. Festival.

Billy Matthews and Sheri McCall took on the job of sprucing up the old caboose.

As a train whistle blasted and a locomotive sped by, Matthews and McCall were busy painting the steps and railings to the famed railroad car.

“We’re going to paint the whole thing,” Matthews said with a wave of his paint-spattered hand.

“Or at least this end and that entire side,” McCall said with a grin.

“Depends on how much we can get done before the festival and how much paint we have.”

McCall and Matthews agree on one thing: the festival will be different this year without the bubbly presence of the late Mary Wallace, fan club president and total Hank enthusiast.

“It’s going to be sad. Mary had such a way about her. She could always see the positive side of things when they were bad. She will be missed,” Matthews said.

Still, the show goes on, just the way Hank’s biggest fan would want it. And it appears no gloomy skies will rain out these year’s event.

According to the extended forecast, there is only a 20 percent chance of widely scattered showers predicted each day.

Temperatures, however, are going to be scorching, so it’s recommended attendees dress in cool, comfortable clothing and bring their lawn chairs to enjoy the festival.

Tuesday night, several campers and motor homes were already in place in the RV area adjacent to the Hank Williams Park, while others were set up on the grounds of the Hank Williams Fan Club House.

The club house is where this week’s festivities begin, with a picnic and jam session set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday. At 7 p.m. George Hamilton IV will present his tribute to Hank’s Luke the Drifter persona at the historic Ga-Ana Theater just a short walk away. A number of other artists are also slated to perform.

Friday at 11 a.m., folks can enjoy a showcase of budding songwriters’ talents at the fan club’s annual Songwriters’ Contest at the Georgiana Nutrition Center.

Festival gates open Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 8 a.m. Tickets for Friday are $15 and $25 for Saturday. Please, no lounge chairs, coolers, pets, food or drink brought into the park.

A variety of foods and beverages will be available for purchase at the festival, including a fully loaded “Hank Burger.” And be on the lookout for the ladies of the Three Arts Club, who will be selling their annual programs at the event. Monies raised go to fund scholarships for county high school girls.

Margaret Gaston, who manages the Hank Williams Museum and Boyhood Home for the city, also invites visitors to stop in and check out their collection of Hank memorabilia and to browse the gift shop for souvenirs of the weekend.

For more information on the Hank Fest, visit www.hankmuseum.com and click on “festival information.”