LaFayette sees more growth in Honeybee Festival's future

This year's event is June 2

An important pollinator, honey bees contribute more than $14 billion annually to U.S. agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "One mouthful in three of the foods you eat directly or indirectly depends on pollination by honey bees. Crops from nuts to vegetables and as diverse as alfalfa, apple, cantaloupe, cranberry, pumpkin, and sunflower all require pollinating by honey bees," the USDA's website states.

With all the buzz already surrounding the June 2 event, LaFayette's second annual Honeybee Festival promises to be bigger than before - and City Manager David Hamilton only foresees more growth in the future.

Though last year's event was a success, drawing approximately 20,000 people throughout the course of the day, Hamilton said it's only the beginning of the city's vision for the festival, which works to bring attention to the importance of preserving the honeybee population.

Due to help from sponsors, the festival is close to breaking even on its investment, but it has not yet reached a point where it is generating revenue to further those causes, he explained.

"We're still kind of in that start-up phase," said Hamilton.

As the city continues to build the festival and those dollars come in, Hamilton hopes to see the funds directed toward projects like creating pollinator gardens in LaFayette, as well as improving the vegetation at the city's parks and recreation facilities.

Eventually, he said he'd like to see the festival grow to the point where it can be managed by a nonprofit, similar to the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, which is run by the nonprofit management organization Friends of the Festival.

Once created, that nonprofit would be able to use the event's proceeds to further causes such as honeybee conservation and pollinator education.

In the meantime, this year's festival will put more emphasis on raising awareness with its expanded educational area, featuring honeybee educational opportunities that focus on the importance of the honeybee population's survival as well as beekeeping tips, exhibits and demonstrations.

The welcome center will also be transformed into an exhibit area for honeybee education and master gardeners.

"That's going to be a very noticeable difference: the amount of focus on the honeybee and the education related to it," Hamilton said.

This year's festival also features country music stars Craig Campbell and Joe Nichols, upping the number of headlining acts from one to two. Instead of performing at the square, the headliners will perform on a new stage in the Walker County Board of Education's parking lot, which can accommodate a larger crowd and provides a wider viewing area.

There will also be plenty of other activities to keep attendees busy, such as a barbecue competition, a honey competition, a Miss Honeybee Pageant and a cruise-in that includes antique tractors.

"We've had more help this year, we've had more team members get involved," Hamilton said. "I think it will continue to grow throughout the years."

The festivities will take place in downtown LaFayette from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. More than 165 vendors will be set up on-site. Admission to the event is free.

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