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Uvalde's annual honey festival shows signs of healing for the community

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Now for a story of renewal out of Uvalde, Texas. The town's annual Honey Festival was canceled last year, this after the shooting at Robb Elementary School killed 19 students and two teachers. This year, though, the festival honoring the work of the busy bees in South Texas is back. Here's Brian Kirkpatrick of Texas Public Radio.

BRIAN KIRKPATRICK, BYLINE: The bees that produce the region's honey and the townspeople both share a strong sense of community, says area beekeeper Linda Williams.

LINDA WILLIAMS: They are tough, and they're going to do everything that they can to survive. They work together, and they all pull their weight. And it's all about the hive.

KIRKPATRICK: A shady park in the heart of Uvalde hosts the festival, dotted with a music stage and all sorts of vendors, including those selling honey made by the area's bees. Beekeeper Chianne Delacerda says they won't ever forget those killed.

CHIANNE DELACERDA: The community still tries to come together. We still try to stay cohesive as a unit. Everyone kind of supports each other through everything.

KIRKPATRICK: Festival manager Gloria Reza says they are working at healing from the shooting.

GLORIA REZA: We are one big beehive. No queen, though (laughter). But we're a bunch of worker bees. And, you know, we will find a way to pick up pieces not just from this tragedy but from anything that has happened to us.

KIRKPATRICK: The farming and ranching town is still trying to recover, and the festival helps, says newly crowned honey queen Cashlyn Varnon.

CASHLYN VARNON: A little bit. It's definitely still different.

KIRKPATRICK: At the park's center are the wooden crosses with the names, photos and mementos of those killed by a teenage gunman. The mass shooting and delayed police response prompted calls for stricter gun laws and changes in police and community leadership. Out in the countryside around the town, bees are busy collecting nectar from wildflowers dotting the landscape, including from guajillo brush, which produces what one beekeeper calls a light, sweet, beautiful honey. That honey is said to have healing properties for humans. For NPR News, I'm Brian Kirkpatrick in Uvalde, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Brian Kirkpatrick
Brian Kirkpatrick has been a journalist in Texas most of his life, covering San Antonio news since 1993, including the deadly October 1998 flooding, the arrival of the Toyota plant in 2003, and the base closure and realignments in 2005.