HAHIRA -- The sun peeked through Saturday's gloomy skies as the 24th Annual Honey Bee Festival's parade began to inch down Main Street.

"Rrrrr ... Daddy, look it's a fire engine," 3-year-old Emily Drown said, mimicking the engine's siren while balancing on her dad's shoulders.

The Drowns, a Moody Air Force Base family, have lived in Valdosta for three years.

Emily joined hundreds of kids who showed up eager to eye the many floats, cars and engines and grab candy thrown by parade participants.

Maime Sorrell, one of the original Honey Bee Festival founders, received a compliment from honored guest Libby Evans-Wright, the president of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

"What a great parade," Wright said, shaking Sorrell's hand.

Wright recently invited the Lowndes High School Georgia Bridgemen Band to perform at the 2006 Tournament of Roses parade.

The Band marched, drummed and drilled Saturday afternoon, jolting parade-watchers and shaking craft booths.

People chuckled as swarms of kids and adults attacked the man on the chicken float, who tossed out barbecued chicken to anyone who had paper plate or a free hand.

Sorrell, who came up with the idea to have a Honey bee Festival in 1981 while baking Christmas cookies, said she misses co-founder and friend Adeline Landrum, who died earlier this year.

The original Honey bee crew lost another friend this year: Louise Passmore, "The Queen Bee."

Sorrell said she and Landrum were close friends, and Landrum, who often cooked for Sorrell, asked her how she would pay her back for all the good meals.

Sorrell said she thought for a moment, cookie ingredients spread about, and said she'd do something "to spruce up our little city."

Sprucing she did, as 24 years later, the festival has marked Hahira as a destination, attracting hundreds of people from surrounding counties.

Sorrell remembered the first Honey bee festival, where supporters thought $300 would cover costs.

This year's festival was the biggest yet, Honey bee Committee members said, and the event was dedicated to the Shriners of America.

New Honey bee t-shirts used the Shriners' logo: "Having Fun and Helping Kids."

The parade's Grand Marshall, Dr. Stephen Zeigler, spent nine of his adolescent years receiving treatments at the Shriner's Burns Institute in Texas after an accident burned over 85 percent of his body.

The 2005 Honey bee Book dedicates a spread to Dr. Zeigler and his many accomplishments in the South Georgia area.

Sorrell said she has t-shirts from each Honey bee Festival.

"It's amazing to see it grow to this extent," Sorrell said.

Bill Suber of Moultrie's Swings N' Things, sat in a handmade cypress rocking chair, watching the crowd grow.

Suber has sold his handmade crafts for 15 years at the festival, and said he enjoys the events.

The parade wound down with Shriners revving their clown-car engines and various groups throwing goodies or waving to onlookers.

Members of the Honey bee Committee made a donation to the Shriner's of America during a ceremony Saturday morning.

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