Festival draws fans from near and far

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Georgiana becomes a veritable Mecca every year as country fans from around the nation make the pilgrimage to the Hank Williams Festival, and even an economic slump didn’t stop this year’s celebration from being one of the best.

The 33rd annual Hank Williams Festival was held this past weekend as a salute to the Country Music Hall of Fame member and his lasting influence on all genres of music, and a certain amount of the profits were donated to the local Hank Williams’ Boyhood Home and Museum.

While known predominantly for country music, there were also arts and crafts vendors and food to satisfy the festivalgoers.

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The weekend-long event featured performances from several notable country music stars, including Larry Gatlin, Jeremy Parsons, George Hamilton IV and Williams’ daughter, Jett Williams.

The continued success of the festival is a major asset to the city of Georgiana from both a cultural and a financial standpoint, and none of that significance is lost on Mike Middleton, mayor of Georgiana.

“The Hank Williams Festival is very vital to us in that regard,” Middleton said.

“A lot of people spend all week with us due to the festivities, and that means that they’ll be buying food, gas and anything else they might need during their stay here.”

But Middleton insists that the cultural impact is every bit as important as the financial one.

“Hank Williams’ music is known to anybody and everybody, and a lot of other singers got their start listening to him,” Middleton said.

The museum served as a great attraction in its own right during the festivities, offering tourists a unique and interesting perspective of the man behind the legend.

Margaret Gaston, operator of the museum and resident expert on all things Hank Williams, was especially pleased with this year’s turnout.

“We’ve always had good entertainment and we had good entertainment again this year,” Gaston said.

But when asked about what draws people to this event every year, she didn’t hesitate for a second to respond.

“That’s easy,” she said. “It’s Hank Williams himself, and the appreciation for his music.  He was a genius.”

With a range of influence reaching artists from Willie Nelson to Bob Dylan, it is no small wonder that Williams’ legacy has continued to thrive.

And if the town of the Georgiana has anything to say about it, it will continue to do so for years to come.