Valdosta Daily Times

October 3, 2013

Homecoming, Honeybee: 30 years and counting

The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — This weekend, South Georgia celebrates two traditions started in the early 1980s: The Hahira Honeybee Festival and the homecoming football game of the Valdosta State University Blazers.

Hahira forged its Honeybee Festival in an era when many small-town festivals started to die.

Culturally, the early 1980s will be better remembered as the beginning of MTV, the rise of video games, cable television, the ability for a family to rent a movie to play in their homes, and any number of entertainments that could easily distract folks from attending an old-fashioned parade or festival.

But not in Hahira.

Hahira started a festival in the midst of all of these technological entertainments. Yet, Hahira’s Honeybee Festival has not only survived, it has thrived.

While there are many activities, the Honeybee Festival has one of the best old-fashioned parades in the region. Come Saturday, thousands of people will line the streets of Hahira to watch the parade.

It was also the early 1980s when Valdosta State began its football program.

In 1981, then-VSU President Hugh Bailey instituted the start of a Valdosta State football team.

Though South Georgia loves football, attracting fans for Valdosta State hasn’t been easy. The Blazers have had to compete with long-standing traditions and deeply committed fans of Valdosta High Wildcats and the Lowndes High Vikings. As for college ball, many South Georgians had already sworn allegiance to the Georgia Bulldogs, Florida State University or other university teams.

Yet, the Blazers continue growing. The team has dominated Division II and won national championships. With 30-plus years of football history, the Blazers are developing lifelong, diehard fans.

This weekend’s homecoming will be a good time for long-time fans to return for another Blazers game and the perfect opportunity for a newcomer to discover the Blazer football tradition.

With more than 30 years behind both the Honeybee Festival and VSU football, we hope both traditions continue for 30 more years and beyond.