Dedicated to local black commerce, culture and fellowship, this weekend’s Hot Corner Celebration and Soul Food Festival is an Athens staple.
“It’s like a big family reunion. You can enjoy music, food, vendors and catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while,” says festival chair Tawana Mattox. “It’s very diverse, too. We welcome everybody to come out and enjoy themselves.”
The Hot Corner—the intersection of Hull and Washington streets downtown—is the historic center of black commerce in Athens. During the Jim Crow era, it was home to African-American lawyers, doctors, dentists, pharmacies, insurance agencies, motels and other businesses, most notably the 109-year-old Morton Theatre, now owned by city. But it began to decline after segregation ended, as black-owned businesses moved to other parts of the city and white-owned businesses moved in. Barber shop owner Homer Wilson started the Hot Corner Association in 1999 and came up with the idea of a festival to celebrate the history of the area and encourage black entrepreneurship.
The celebration isn’t just designed to remember black business leaders of the past, but also to encourage today’s locals to start their own businesses, according to Mattox. Of the original 50-plus businesses that were active around the Hot Corner during the 1950s and ’60s, only three remain, and one of the Hot Corner Association’s priorities is to welcome new minority-owned businesses back into the area.
“I’m big on history, so it makes me feel good that we’re honoring those before us, but we also want to encourage the current people of Athens to come out and show support for the district,” Mattox says.
Some highlights of this year’s event include Friday night’s gospel program, a car and bike show and a barbecue cook-off on Saturday, with trophies and a year’s worth of bragging rights as the winner’s prize.
Saturday features an all-day lineup of musical performances, as well, with highlights including appearances from local hip-hop and R&B artists L.G., Kxng Blanco, Squallé, Stella Groove, Arsenic, Blacknerdninja and many more. For more details, check out the schedule on the online version of this story, or visit hotcornerathens.weebly.com.
While it’s not an official part of the festival, a Hot Corner mural planned for the side of the Morton Theatre had to be moved to the Costa Building a block away. The project was delayed for a week, but a dedication ceremony is still scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8. See City Dope for more.
Hot Corner Festival Schedule
Friday, June 7
6 p.m. Gospel Program at First AME Church
9:30 p.m. Amazing Grace screening at Ciné
Saturday, June 8
12:00 p.m. Opening Ceremony and Remarks
12:30 p.m. Zeke Turner
12:40 p.m. Minister F.B.L.
12:50 p.m. Deborah Kendricks
1:00 p.m. Alleaha Blackmon Dancing
1:10 p.m. Gospel Testimony
1:15 p.m. Poet
1:25 p.m. Host Moments
1:30 p.m. Good Vibes
2:00 p.m. Marcel Mincey
2:15 p.m. Psalms of Fire
2:30 p.m. Tonya Haygood
2:40 p.m. Shed
2:50 p.m. Berto
3:05 p.m. Think Out of the Box Dance Crew
3:10 p.m. Stella Groove
3:20 p.m. Host Moments
3:40 p.m. Dancing in the Street
4:00 p.m. Awards
4:30 p.m. Goodwin Band
5:00 p.m. Stella Zine
5:15 p.m. Mokah Speaks feat. Sierra Westbrook and Foreign
5:30 p.m. WiseXpressions Dance Studio
5:45 p.m. Savage Montana
6:00 p.m. Quezzy Poet
6:10 p.m. Arsenic
6:20 p.m. Blacknerdninja
6:30 p.m. L.G. (HOTC)
6:40 p.m. Squalle
6:55 p.m. Solo 10K
7:05 p.m. LB
7:15 p.m. Motorhead 2x
7:25 p.m. Kxng Blanco
7:40 p.m. Jet Squad
7:50 p.m. Host Moments
8:00 p.m. The Splitz Band
9:00 p.m. DJ Segar and Mellow Miles
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