Luverne Graduate headlines “Hankin at the Opry”

By Haley Mitchell Gowin

The inaugural Hankin’ at the Opry event was held June 1 – 4 at the historic Georgiana Opry House. The four-day extravaganza not only entertained a nearly sold out house but also served as a celebration of what would have been Hank Williams Sr.’s upcoming 100th birthday in September. 

The event brought together talented musicians and passionate fans to honor the iconic singer-songwriter and the rich musical legacy that he left behind. 

One of the highlights of the event included heartfelt tributes paid to Williams by the participating musicians. Rylee Austin, an up-and-coming Nashville recording artist who grew up in Luverne, paid homage to the legendary musician by performing “Hank’s Cadillac” by Ashley Monroe. Austin expressed her joy and gratitude at being part of Hankin’ at the Opry.

“To be a part of this meant the world to me,” Austin said. “Hank Williams Sr. has been one of my big influences since I was young. There is so much history on that stage and Tracy and the entire crew there have been very supportive of my career. To be able to release my limited edition, hometown version of my album at Hankin’ at the Opry before the full album release, and before the songs were released to streaming, was such a great opportunity.”

According to Tracy Eason, managing owner of the Opry House, musician, and former drummer for the Robbin McCombs and the Aces and Eights bands, the atmosphere throughout was electric and set the stage for a weekend filled with quality entertainment and nostalgia.

“Hank’s spirit was definitely in the air here at the Georgiana Opry House and over at the 44th Hank Williams Sr. Festival,” Eason said. “There are many to thank when it comes to what it took to make the inaugural Hankin at the Opry a success and such a great time.  I greatly appreciate all the spectators, Katrina and Mary Ruth’s Restaurant, Abby Gardner with Greenville State Farm, the new management at Georgiana Food Mart, and all the sponsors and behind-the-scenes people that worked to make everything come together.”

“I’m grateful for the Hank Williams Sr. Festival working with me and allowing the winner of the inaugural Georgiana Opry House Talent Showcase, The BroJo Band, to perform over at the pavilion. The Georgiana Opry House looks forward to continuing to work with the festival and the City of Georgiana to build up our city and put the resources we have here to best use while preserving Hank’s legacy and local history. We hope y’all come Hankin’ with us next year!”

The festivities kicked off the night of June 1 with a pre-show party at 6:30 p.m., followed by a performance by special guest Hawkshaw Hawkins  Jr.,  singer/songwriter and son of country music icons Jean Shepherd and Hawkshaw Hawkins Sr. 

A diverse range of additional bands and artists took the stage throughout the event including 2 Strings, Paige King Johnson; a Nashville favorite from North Carolina, Kelly Poole and The Swing Set, The Shawn Stuckey Band, and 55 South who performed just before Friday’s headliner, Rylee Austin.  

Saturday night’s headliner was Georgette Jones and her band. Terry Till of Goshen, whose uncle by marriage, Lonnie Williams, was Hank Williams Sr.’s father, attended the Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. show Thursday night and watched Georgette Jones and her band Saturday night. 

“I really enjoyed both shows,” Till said. “The atmosphere was great as always, and I just enjoy going to the Georgiana Opry House every chance I get because of that and the history there. I think what Tracy is doing at the Opry House to help preserve Hank Williams Sr.’s legacy is a really good thing and I hope more people find out about what she has going on there. Being at the Opry House always brings back good memories from when I was growing up and families would get together every Sunday. Uncle Lonnie always kept a harmonica in his pocket and often he’d pull it out and start playing and my brother, Fred Till Jr., and I would play along with our guitars. Feeling the goodness of those days when I am inside the Georgiana Opry House is something I always look forward to.”

Sunday morning, the Georgiana Opry House hosted “Church at the Opry” where those with weekend or day passes enjoyed praise and workshop music provided by Chris Golden, son of Lee Golden from The Oak Ridge Boys, and Bob Kreider from South Carolina who sang several songs Hank Williams Sr. songs he recorded as Luke the Drifter. A complimentary breakfast catered by Mary Ruth’s Restaurant was provided that included an assortment of fruits, sausage, bacon, homemade biscuits, eggs cooked to order, pancakes and more.

Plans are already in motion for “Hankin at the Opry” 2024 with some performers already confirmed. The Georgiana Opry House, along with the Greenville Advocate encourage everyone to stay updated through their Facebook pages for more information on next year’s event.

More info on the upcoming Georgiana Opry House July 4th celebration which will include performances by Shane Owens, Darrell Qualls and others, as well as a fireworks show and free hotdogs and hamburgers for the first 100 people can  be found by following Georgiana Opry House on social media. 

Information on the second annual Georgiana Opry House Talent Showcase and a link to submit applications is available at