‘We are one big bee hive:’ Uvalde festival celebrates honey’s power to heal wounds and soothe souls

The bees that produce the region’s honey and the townspeople both share a strong sense of community.

By Brian Kirkpatrick, Texas Public RadioJune 13, 2023 10:15 am, , ,

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Uvalde brought back its Honey Fest tradition this weekend to celebrate the local industry, little more than one year after the Robb Elementary School shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead. It was cancelled last year because of the tragedy.

The bees that produce the region’s honey and the townspeople both share a strong sense of community.

“They are tough, and they are going to do everything they can to survive. They work together, and they all pull their weight. And it’s all about the hive,” said local beekeeper Linda Williams.

Fellow local beekeeper Chianne Delacerda liked the comparison, too. Delacerda operates Deer Valley Apiary just outside Uvalde.

“The community still tries to come together,” she said. “We still try to stay cohesive as a unit. Everyone kind of supports each other through everything.”

Festival manager Gloria Reza agreed.

“We are one big beehive. We’re a bunch of worker bees, and we will find a way to pick up the pieces,” she said. “Not just from this tragedy, but from anything that has happened to us.”

Brian Kirkpatrick / TPR

Eighteen-year-old Cashlyn Varnon was selected as this year's festival Honey Queen.

It’s clear the residents of this farm and ranching town will always remember the shooting victims.

Eighteen-year-old Honey Queen Cashlyn Varnon was asked if the festival is a step toward a new normal. “A little bit. It’s definitely still different,” she said.

The festival was held at the town square in the heart of Uvalde. There were all sorts of vendors, including those selling honey, made by the area’s bees.

At the park’s center, however, remained the wooden crosses with the names of those who died, along with photos and mementos from their lives.

Brian Kirkpatrick / TPR

Wooden crosses remain at the center of the Uvalde town square, where Uvalde held its 2023 Honey Fest.

And in the countryside around the town, bees were busy collecting nectar from wildflowers dotting the landscape, including from Guajillo brush, which produces what one beekeeper called a light, sweet, beautiful honey.

The beekeepers explained that honey has healing properties for humans — a quality Uvalde treasures more than ever before.

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