HISTORY OF THE HONAKER REDBUD FESTIVAL
The idea for the Honaker Redbud Festival grew out of several meetings in 1981 held by the Honaker Lions Club, the Honaker Merchants Association, the Jaycees, and the Honaker Town Council. Jim Baldwin of the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission, who was working with the town and county on a litter control program, and his father, longtime Honaker High School principal, A.P. Baldwin, presented the idea of a festival as a way to highlight the positive attributes of Honaker. Jim had noticed how beautiful the Redbud trees along Route 80 were during the blooming season, so the Redbud tree was chosen as the centerpiece for a festival. The group all agreed that the Redbud Festival would highlight the natural beauty and mountain heritage of the area and would be held in April of each year. Work then began on organizing the first Festival.
The first task undertaken by Jim and the Town Council was to seek official designation for Honaker as the Redbud Capital. Working with then Congressman Bill Wampler's office, the U.S. Library of Congress recognized Honaker as the "first and foremost Redbud Capital of the United States." With this designation in hand, a Festival Committee was formed to begin planning for the First Honaker Redbud Festival.
The first Festival Board of Directors was made up of representatives of the three civic organizations involved. Jim Baldwin served as Festival Coordinator, a role he continues to fill. A logo, which was designed by local artist Edward Young, was adopted as the official festival trademark.
One of the first tasks was to recruit a working committee to help plan the festival events. This small group planned a small, weekend festival in April, 1982 that included a parade, a canoe race on the Clinch River, a motorcycle race, and a performance of the world renowned Roadside Theater.
From this small beginning - a weekend festival of 4 events - the Redbud Festival has grown dramatically, and this year's festival includes eleven events. Some of the key additions over the years included pageants, an arts and crafts show, a car show, and a Homecoming Dinner.
Another key addition was a Redbud Festival Essay Contest. This activity was instituted as a way to involve elementary and high school students in the Festival and to give them the motivation to learn more about the history of the Honaker area. Students were asked to interview a parent, grandparent, or other person and write about life in Honaker in years gone by. The contest has been held every year since 1984 and expanded to include adults. The Festival Committee has published five volumes of essays to preserve and share the memories of "life in the Redbud Capital".
Another addition to the festival schedule was music. The Foxfire Boys of Rabun Gap, Georgia, performed a program of traditional mountain music and gave a workshop for high school students. Over the years, the festival brought other musicians to Honaker, including Joe and Janette Carter, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Blue Highway, Lost and Found, and Wildfire.
Added in 1986 was a Family Fun Day. This event, as well as similar events in 1984 and 1985, was sponsored for the community's young people. Games were organized and food provided. Family Fun Day is still an important part of our Festival.
The 1990 Festival was dedicated to celebrating the Town of Honaker's Sesquicentennial, or 150th Anniversary. The Redbud Festival Committee planned a town-wide celebration that was held in July and which was highlighted by a magnificent fireworks display. The Committee also served as host to the Second Hans Jacob (Honeggar) Honaker Family Reunion in August of that year.
Since 1990, several events have been added, including the Redbud Festival Breakfast, the Redbud Festival Bird Walk and the Redbud Festival Pet Show, that are still part of the Festival.
The 2007 Festival will feature the Redbuds and Bluegrass Mountain Music Festival and will focus on music of the hills. Dry Branch Fire Squad, an internationally known traditional bluegrass group, and Bluestone, an up and coming local bluegrass group, will provide a great evening of music. Both groups have strong ties to Honaker.
As the time draws near for the 36th Annual Redbud Festival, the Redbud Festival Committee is proud of our town and our Festival. We think the community has benefited from the Festival. As a result of this Committee's efforts, many good things have happened in Honaker. The Festival has been an impetus to beautifying Honaker by encouraging the planting of Redbud trees in town and in helping to get a new town sign erected. In addition, Route 80 was officially named the Redbud Highway, a Redbud Scholarship Fund was created, the old Baldwin-Hurt home was saved, and a community mural was created.
The Committee appreciates the support of the community, local businesses, the Honaker Town Council, the Russell County Board of Supervisors, the Russell County School Board, Honaker High School, Honaker Elementary School, Swords Creek Elementary School and Givens Elementary School. Without this help and support, the Festival could not succeed.