Hank Williams Festival seeking appeal of fans far and wide

Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A longtime community tradition celebrating Butler County’s most famous native son returns the first weekend in June to Georgiana. The 38th annual “Salute to a Legend,” the Hank Williams, Sr. Festival promises to deliver a mixture of veteran performers, country up-and-comers and local talent in 2017.

Frank Foster will headline at the Hank Williams Pavilion on Friday, June 2.  Foster, a Louisiana native, has released several well-received independent albums, managing to hit the Billboard Country charts twice in 2016. His first album in 2012 entered the charts at number 30, with every single album since then landing in either the Top 20 or the Top 10, defying the odds for an independent artist. Foster says the secret to his success is this: “The music is honest and real and I have the best fans in the business . . . the Frank Foster Nation.”

Also slated to perform on Friday are former “The Voice” contestant James Dupre and Brad Magness. Dupre, another Louisiana native now based in Nashville, first rose to fame through a number of YouTube videos of his covers of favorite country songs. Magness and his band The Flying Buffaloes have been entertaining festival audiences for over two decades, with Magness, a native of Bean Blossom, Indiana, always thrilling audiences with his amazing guitar solos.

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Hank Fest vets Mary McDonald and Colon Leatherwood are also scheduled to take the stage on Friday.

Saturday will bring back, by popular demand, headliner Gene Watson, who has charted with six number ones, 23 top tens and 75 charted singles in his long career. Hank’s own daughter and a faithful friend to the event, Jett Williams, is also scheduled to perform. In addition, Saturday’s slate will include encore performances by Magness, McDonald and Leatherwood, along with Kim Carson and the Real Deal, Cherokee Creek and Flashback, with Mary Battiata, Jessica Strenth, Jessie Lynn, Mason Ramsey, Terry Smith and Cota Cheek all appearing courtesy of the Hank Williams Fan Club during the two-day event.

Two Butler County songstresses will be taking the stage on Saturday: Starla Jones, a longtime HankFest favorite with her stirring patriotic tribute, and Hannah Schofield, a Fort Dale Academy student who has performed on the park stage before with her fellow praise band members.

While at least some of the performers won’t have to journey far, there are attendees planning to travel a very long way indeed to celebrate Hank Williams and country music, says Hank Williams Museum and Boyhood Home curator Margaret Gaston.

“Ed Wilson & Jennifer Cartlidge from the U.K. will be here. They came last year for the first time in several years,” Gaston said.

“And Australian Narelle Turnbull, our unofficial titleholder as the person who traveled the greatest distance to the festival—almost 9,000 miles!–and her two friends are also planning to attend as the guests of Morris Middleton that weekend. Narelle, who works for a limo service, met Morris on one of his trips Down Under in 2014.  I don’t know how their conversation led to his being from Hank’s hometown, but it did. And voila! She made that long trip here in 2015. I am glad she has company this year. It will be more fun for her!”

And speaking of fun, Hank Fest attendees will also get to enjoy festival food and beverages, arts and crafts and the opportunity to support local clubs and organization, including the Butler County Humane Society. The Three Arts Club of Georgiana and Chapman will be selling their keepsake event programs, with the monies going to college scholarships for area high school girls, community arts programs and more.

Regular ticket prices are $20 for Friday and $30 for Saturday, with children under 12 admitted free. Patrons can save $10 off a two-day ticket price by purchasing their tickets by May 27. Tickets will also be sold at the gate both days, with gates opening at 2 p.m. on Friday and at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Free karaoke is on tap on Thursday night at the park. There is no reserved seating for the event; bring your lawn chairs. Organizers stress that no lounge chairs, coolers, food, drinks or pets should be brought into the park that weekend. For more information, call 334-376-2396, fax to 334-376-9350, email cityofgeorgiana@centurytel.net or visit www.hankwilliamsfestival.com