Georgia Flood band members, from left, Brooks Mason and Lane Kelly, performing here at the Northside Tavern, are set to visit the stage at the Lemon Bee Festival on Aug. 16. (Special Photo)
Now in its eighth year, the Lemon Bee Festival has become a summer staple in Olde Town Conyers.
What began as a party commemorating Rockdale County native Matthew Wilcox’s 22nd birthday has since transitioned into a community celebration that shares its good fortune with an important local organization.
This year’s Lemon Bee Festival is set for 1 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Olde Town Pavilion. Tickets for the festival are $10 and can be purchased at the door.
Wilcox — who’s now 30 years old — said that a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales would be donated to the Kimberly Chance Atkins Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the eradication of breast cancer. The foundation honors Kimberly Atkins, who died in 1999 at the age of 32 after a battle with breast cancer.
“My head of security’s wife, (Atkins) was her aunt,” Wilcox said. “I knew about the foundation when we first started the Lemon Bee, which really jumped off the ground after the first year. I wasn’t thinking about supporting a charity or the foundation at all back then — it was my birthday party. But after we did it, I decided that if we were going to keep doing this, we needed to make it worthwhile for the community.
“This festival is not about me — it’s more about everybody else. This started as a party and turned into a community event. So I figured out I should do some good with it because what’s the point of celebrating my birthday every year if it’s not actually doing something positive?”
In addition to some ticket proceeds, the Lemon Bee (the name of which is based on phrases Wilcox picked up from his great-grandmother) has reserved booth space for the foundation and will hold its inaugural pie-baking contest, with all proceeds dedicated to the KFAC, a registered 501(c)(3) charitable entity.
It will cost $20 and two pies to enter the competition, with prizes donated by local businesses. The pie-judging is set to begin around 4:30 p.m., and even more funds will be raised by soliciting Lemon Bee patrons to sign up as honorary judges for $20.
“We have five regular judges and we’re planning to have up to 10 honorary judges,” Wilcox said. “The crowd will also serve as judges, which is why we’re asking people to bring two pies — one for the judges and one for the crowd. And all of the money goes to the foundation.”
Although pie judging is a new wrinkle, longtime Lemon Bee patrons can rest assured that the attractions they know and love about the festival are still firmly in place.
As always, music is a key factor. Seven bands are set to take the Pavilion stage with a host of special guests, including Ice Cream Man, Jeff Taylor, Matt Deakin, Jesse Charette and Jerod Gay. Bands performing include Insomniac Gypsy, The Georgia Flood, Novus, Out on Love, Light the Avenue, Soul Chord and headliners The Stratocats.
“We always have great bands,” Wilcox said. “I’m really excited about some of the up-and-coming bands we’ve got, including Insomniac Gypsy, Light the Avenue and Novus.
“Most of those bands are made up of young guys from Conyers and they’re amazing writers and musicians. And the Stratocats have played at the last several Lemon Bees, and they’re a great classic-rock cover band.”
Wilcox adds that in the eight years of the Lemon Bee, he’s come to develop an even greater affinity for his hometown, especially Olde Town.
“Olde Town is the heart of Conyers,” he said. “I grew up just around the corner and I’ve always loved how colorful and historic Olde Town is. The Lemon Bee stands for the local economy and local growth and without community, we’re just another city… Without Olde Town, Conyers is just another stop along I-20.”
Using past Lemon Bees as a guide, Wilcox said he expects about 500 patrons to visit the Pavilion during the day.
“Since it’s an all-day event, people come and go,” he said. “I don’t think there’s ever a time when we have 400 or 500 people there at one time. We’re not trying to throw a Woodstock here.”
For more information about the eighth annual Lemon Bee Festival, visit Lemon Bee Festival 2014 on Facebook.
Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.