The community of Athens defied the summer sun as they gathered together to celebrate history, community, music and food. From local artists to fish fries and speeches from newly elected county Commissioners, Hot Corner lived up to its name at the Hot Corner Music Festival celebrated it’s 18th year.
Tawana Smith Maddox, chairperson of the festival, said this festival was organized to pay homage to the individuals of the past who forged a place in the South for black-owned businesses. She also said carrying this remembrance forward and engaging younger generations to keep the tradition and growth alive is a large part of the festival's purpose.
To support this objective, many entrepreneurs and officials from Athens were invited on stage throughout the first part of the 10 hour day to tell the crowd about their business and goals as entrepreneurs in Athens.
From noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, over 50 vendors from around the community lined the streets of Hot Corner. Vendors sold an assortment of products from soul food and BBQ to handmade soaps and lotions. Lil Ice Cream Dude even made an appearance to help offer relief from the heat.
“You are part of this great history. You are part of the community.”
- Homer Wilson, owner of Wilson Styling Shop
The sense of unity and celebration was undeniable during the festival. This is a time for neighbors and kin to gather in one place and share their time with each other. Providing a space for this kind of fellowship is another goal of the festival.
“It’s like a big family reunion because a lot of times people don’t see eachother until they come back to the festival every year," Maddox said. "It’s an opportunity for people to come together."
If the atmosphere wasn't lively enough, the crowd was electrified when newly elected Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mariah Parker performed as part of her address to the crowd. Mariah also had a tent at the event where she answered questions about herself and how she plans to serve the Athens community once taking office.
Maddox said that the event is to inspire the future generations by the history of the businesses that once lined the streets of Hot Corner and to let the black community of the South know there is still a space for their businesses in Athens.
While the vendors honored the culture and history of Athens, the music was the star of the show. A variety of music was played throughout the festival, starting with younger artists and gospel music, then getting into hip-hop music later in the festival.
The Voltures are a younger group that played earlier in the festival, and were invited to play after their talent was recognized while performing at West Broad Farmers Market. High school freshman and lead singer of the Voltures, Grace Kanavage, enjoyed being able to perform as well as to see the event.
“It’s really cool to see Athens culture celebrated in one place,” Kanavage said. “We’re really happy that we got to play here.”
The hip-hop artists also see the event as a way to be noticed and to create community. KidArsenic, an artist who performed at the event, felt that it offered a place for artists to show their faces without drama and to get involved with their community as well.
“They are creating a supernova of change,” KidArsenic said, “who knows what will happen in the next five years.”
Wilson said that the festival is getting better every year, and that he enjoys working with young people and learning from them. Wilson summed up many of the perspectives and goals of the festival in his opening address to the crowd.
“You are part of this great history,” Wilson said. “You are part of the community.”