There is nothing better than good food, good music and good company. The inaugural Honeyland Festival, which took place in Houston from November 11 and 12, offered all three.
Produced by Live Nation Urban and Endeavor-owned IMG, the festival took place just 25 minutes outside of metro-Houston, at Crown Festival Park in Sugar Land. With over 32K attendees, one monkey (or rain, in this instance) didn’t stop the show, as nasty weather loomed over the festival, throughout the entire week, culminating on Sunday as thousands of festival goers filled the park with a sea of ponchos. However, if this weekend’s inaugural Honeyland Fest is any indication that Houstonians will support their own no matter the circumstance, it’s sure to be set up for success.
What particularly made this festival stand out among what could seem like an oversaturated market for music festivals was its fusion of Black culture, music, beverage and food. And with almost a quarter of Houston’s population identifying as Black, it made sense that Honeyland found its home in this region versus its neighboring sister-cities such as Dallas or Austin.
The Beats Stage at Honeyland featured some of the biggest icons and hottest performers in music today — Saturday’s stage welcomed headliner and R&B sensation Miguel as well as performances by Summer Walker, Houston-native Tobe Nwigwe, Chloe, Spinall, Jae Murphy, Inayah and Dende.
Sunday’s headliner hit the stage just as the skies opened up — nine-time Grammy-award winner Mary J. Blige with additional performances throughout the day featuring Grammy-award winner Tems, Lucky Daye, Coco Jones and Lenora, and the HTX All-Stars such as Scarface, Slim Thug, Paul Wall.
Houston was ranked as the country’s No. 5 culinary destination in the country this year according to Travel + Leisure, so it was only right to have an Eats and Sips stage. Hosted by Kalen Allen and LeToya Luckett, attendees were able to “feast” — physically and emotionally — on exceptional food and beverage demonstrations, as well as captivating conversations curated by food and beverage curators Marcus Samuelsson and Fawn Weaver.
On Saturday, attendees were in for a special treat — wrapping the day’s festivities was a delicious (but nearly two hour-delayed) multi-course dinner seating with superstar and chef Kelis with her take on delightful organic ingredients. Dishes included oxtail, ceviche, as well as a vegan pasta “Food is a universal language that brings people together,” said Kelis, singer and chef.
Bronx-born culinary collective Ghetto Gastro also hosted a cooking demonstration with Robin McBride and Andréa McBride John, owners of the McBride Sisters Wine Company.
“Black people have laid the foundation for many of the spirits we enjoy today, such as whiskey and rum,” said Tracie Franklin, whiskey educator and distiller. “Our contributions to the world of spirits and beverages are too often minimized or erased, and Honeyland’s commitment to showcasing the world’s Best black distillers, mixologists, and more is a necessary reminder and celebration of our influence.”
General admission tickets to Honeyland ran from $95 for single-day passes to $175 for weekend ones. Other specialty ticket options, such as VIP—which included easy access to the festival grounds, special viewing areas, and more—ran upwards of $295 per day, with Platinum tickets (the only option to be covered throughout the rainy weekend), which were over $1K.
Prior to the festival, Honeyland’s organizers pledged to assist the community it celebrated by hiring and working with local and diverse businesses, aiming to invest $1 million in grants to Black creators in Houston. While it’s yet to be said if this was accomplished, the purpose was to offer financial support, professional training, and career development to assist the next generation of hospitality leaders of color.
Of course, no festival is met without its challenges. Leading up to the festival TikTok commentators complained about “Fyre Festival” similarities given a scarcity of details, on the first morning of the festival, organizers announced the VIP lot, directly in front of Crown Festival Park, was closed, and of course at the last minute attendees were outraged that Jazmine Sullivan would no longer be performing (instead, replaced by Summer Walker).
Despite a few hiccups, Honeyland holds a lot of promise — so much so, that it is poised to become one of Houston’s prominent annual festivals.