It’s Time for the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!

On Saturday, February 10, 2018, Downtown Laurel will once again welcome over 3,000 hungry customers and 27 competition teams with their top secret chili recipes. The annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off is one of Laurel Main Street’s most popular events each year. 

At 6:00 a.m. the teams will begin setting up and decorating their booths along Central Avenue.  Teams are given two hours to set up and decorate before the real work begins.  Come early to watch the teams chop and dice their way to victory! All of the teams will prepare their recipes from scratch as attendees look on, mouths watering with anticipation. The event officially begins at 10:00 a.m. 

For just $10, you can enjoy an “all-you-can-eat” bowl.  For $25, enjoy a “bottomless” Carl Buchanan keepsake pottery bowl.  Be sure to eat breakfast before you come though; no chili can be served until the judging begins at 11:00 a.m.

Our expert panel of judges will taste each entry and decide who wins the $1,000 prize in each category.  Who are these experts you ask?

Meet the Judges

Kerri Hinton

Kerri Hinton enjoys catering weddings throughout the south with Special Events Catering Service.  Her favorite way to show love to friends and family is with a gift of home cooked food.  Kerri is married to James Hinton and has two daughters, Valerie and Jamie.  She is expecting her first grandson in April!  Kerri is a member of First Baptist Church of Laurel where she volunteers with the Hospitality Committee and belongs to The Joy Sunday School Class.  She is a graduate of Leakesville High School, JCJC and Mississippi College of Beauty Culture, and is currently a hairdresser at The Nail and Hair Gallery.






Kris Mangum has been employed with Magnolia State Bank since 2009, and served as the President at the Petal location until 2016 when he was named CEO. Kris, a member of the Magnolia State Bank Board of Directors, graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1996 with a BS in Public Administration. At Ole Miss he received All Southeastern Conference and All American honors in the sport of Football. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 1997, where he had a successful 10 year career.






Akeem Davis is a Defensive Back in the NFL.  Akeem was born and raised in Laurel, MS.  He lead Laurel High School to the state title his senior season at QB.  The following year, he attended JCJC before transferring to University of Memphis.  Akee, was the star of the hit NFL Network show, Undrafted.  In 2014, he signed with the Washington Redskins, and played his rookie season in Washington, DC.  Akeem has also played for the Bucs, Saints, Seahawks, Colts, Chiefs, and Jaguars.  He is also the founder of the AD47 Football Leadership Academy, a free, one-day, football skills camp dedicated to promoting leadership, citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.

Akeem and his wife, Sierra, are the proud parents to a daughter, Carsyn, and a son, CJ.




Mimmo Rendina is originally from Salerno, Italy.   He is the chef and owner of Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria with his wife, Jeannie.  Mimmo attended the Culinary School of Florence before moving to the U.S.  He has worked as chef at Tuscany Italian Bistro in Destin, FL and Mimmo’s Pizza in Destin before opening Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria in Quitman.  He opened his Laurel restaurant in November 2017.  Mimmo and his wife, Jeannie, are parents to Elijah and Grayson.








Additional Activities

Each year, at the end of the event, we raffle a 10 gallon cast iron Bayou Classic Jambalaya pot and tripod stand — a $325 value! Tickets for the raffle are $10 for 1 or $20 for 3 and can be purchased from any LMS member or at the event.

Kids Activities

Central Creativity, HAND+made, and Magnolia Alley Artist Co-op will be in the Magnolia Room at Magnolia State Bank from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. providing fun and education activities for kids of all ages!

Thank you to our incredible Sponsors and Producers!

Events like the Chili Cook Off just wouldn’t be possible without the support and backing of local businesses. These sponsorships help pay for the prizes, supplies and more! Their donations also help fund the Laurel Main Street Facade & Amenities grant and are directly responsible for the improvements you see in Downtown Laurel.

Our Signature Sponsor

Magnolia State Bank

The Chili Cook Off’s signature sponsor is Magnolia State Bank. We are so thankful for the financial support and helping hands they provide every year to make this event a successful one.

Hot Sponsors

The City of Laurel

Jones County Chamber of Commerce

Jones County

Sanderson Farms

Spicy Sponsors

Carl & Mandy Buchanan, Community Bank, Mississippi Power, B Clean LLC, Mike Axton and Southern Beverage Company

Our Producers

Event producers provide in-kind support of the event by providing products, services or advertising to make the event a reality. Thank you to WBBN B95 Country, iHeart Radio and SL100, WDAM, and Studio5Fifty for helping to organize the event and to Central Creativity, HAND+made, and Magnolia Alley Artist Co-op for providing the children’s activities.

Join us February 10, 2018 in Downtown Laurel for the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!

Then Comes the Thaw

January is a cruel month.  It’s cold, credit card statements from Christmas are in, and everyone seems to have the flu.  This is, by far, the strangest winter I’ve experienced in my lifetime of living in Mississippi.  I can’t recall the last time it was so cold for so long, yet this week brought about temperatures that would bring daffodils into premature bloom.  If you’re over the cold weather or sick of being cooped up with sick people, you’re in luck because downtown Laurel has something for everyone.  You’ve recovered from your Christmas coma and your holiday hangover… now it’s time to return to the land of the living.

If you want to get creative, downtown Laurel is DEFINITELY the place for you!  One of our newest merchants, Magnolia Alley Artists’ Co-op, has a calendar jam-packed with chances to let loose.  Your kids will love the “Drop & Dine” events on select Friday nights while you enjoy date night at one of our downtown restaurants.  No kids?  No problem!  Magnolia Alley also hosts couples’ painting nights, photography, quilting, and doll classes!  Give them a call at (601) 342-5188 and plan your next night out downtown!

The folks at HAND+made always have something going on too.  From their DIY open studio to Mommy and Me and calligraphy classes, you’ll definitely find something to pique your interest and stretch your creative boundaries.  If you’re looking for something a little more laid back, why not try Lott Furniture’s “Wine & Design” workshops every second Tuesday of each month?  I’m not sure if they intentionally planned it on Mary Poppins’s day off, but it’s practically perfect in every way if you ask me. 😉 Stop by after work, enjoy a beverage, live music, and design tips to make your home your haven.

If you still appreciate the creative and entrepreneurial spirit that thrives in downtown Laurel, but prefer to be the subject rather than the artist, you’ll want to reserve your appointment for a one-of-a-kind family heirloom as Guild & Gentry hosts portrait artist Michael Foster.  He will be at the store on February 17th doing ambrotypes, so click here to reserve your appointment!

Most of our downtown retailers have just wrapped up their buying trips and soon the shelves of their stores will be brimming with more goodies than your house can possibly hold.  Keep an eye out for the overloaded delivery trucks making their way down the brick streets of downtown!

The YWCO will be the new home to the monthly downtown book club, which meets on the first Tuesday of each month from 6-7PM.  Follow Cottage Books on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with the current book selection and for updates on meeting times and new arrivals in the store. The YWCO also hosts numerous community events throughout the year, many of which are free, so be sure to check them out on Facebook to see what’s happening!

Slowboat Brewing Company hosts trivia and live music on alternating Friday nights and live music every Saturday night of the month starting at 7PM.  Check out their Facebook page to see which of your favorite groups are coming to town or maybe even discover a new favorite at Laurel’s liveliest local music scene and Jones County’s only locally owned brewery!

Lee’s Coffee & Tea provides more than a good cup of coffee and the best pimento cheese you’ll ever eat.  They also have some pretty cool events lined up for the month of February!  Enjoy Open Mic Night on the first Friday of the month, Board Game Night on the second Friday, and Vinyl Night on the third Friday.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off happening downtown on February 10th.  We’ll have lots of cold beer, lots of hot chili, and plenty of fun too!

If you’re like me and spend 90% of your waking hours behind a computer screen, all of these opportunities for actual human interaction might be a little intimidating, but I PROMISE YOU, you’ll thank me later.  If not, your next cup of coffee’s on me.  Get downtown y’all!

Prepare the Way for the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!

On Saturday, February 10, 2018, Downtown Laurel will come alive as the thrill of intense competition fuels the teams lining historic Central Avenue for the 7th annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off.  Join us for one of Laurel Main Street’s most popular events and expose your business (and your top secret chili recipe) to over 3,000 hungry customers!

Come early to watch the teams set up and prepare their recipes from scratch.  No pre-chopping or pre-cooking allowed!  Each team prepares and cooks their secret chili recipe right out in the open for all to watch. Judging begins at eleven, when our expert panel tastes each entry and decides who wins the $1,000 grand prize in each category.

For just $10, you can enjoy an “all-you-can-eat” bowl or for $25, enjoy a “bottomless” Carl Buchanan keepsake pottery bowl. Tasting begins at 11:30a.m. and the winners are announced at 12:30p.m. Each year, at the end of the event, we raffle a 10 gallon cast iron Bayou Classic Jambalaya pot and tripod stand — a $325 value! Tickets for the raffle are $10 for 1 or $20 for 3 and can be purchased from any LMS member or at the event.

Compete for a $1,000 GRAND PRIZE

Is your signature chili the talk of the town? Does your organization, business or group have a team ready to face the competition during the 2018 Chili Cook Off? Here’s your chance to show off your favorite recipe and compete for our fabulous prizes, all while contributing to the continued growth and revitalization of our beautiful Downtown!

Prizes generously provided by Magnolia State Bank

1st place Traditional: $1000 & the traveling chili trophy

1st place Homestyle:  $1000 & the traveling chili pot trophy

People’s Choice: $200 & Hand-crafted pottery by Carl Buchanan

Spirit Tent Award: $200 & Hand-crafted pottery by Carl Buchanan

Assemble your team of 5 or less members, gather your ingredients (all chili must be cooked on site) and prepare to face the judges!

Forms & Information

Download the forms below and return them to Laurel Main Street at 409 Oak Street (on the 2nd floor of Lee’s Coffee and Tea) by February 5, 2018 and get ready to delight the crowds and defeat the competition on February 10th!


In order to ensure fairness, teams will be scored in five categories based on their anonymous submission for tasting. Judges will evaluate entries based on color, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste (or bite).

Grand prize winners will be chosen for two categories–Traditional and Homestyle–and will receive $1000 and a traveling trophy. May the best chili win!

Want to compete in this year’s cook off? Click HERE to download registration forms.

Sponsorship Opportunities

This ever-growing event is THE place to be this February and the SPONSORSHIP DEADLINE is January 27, 2018.

The benefits of sponsoring a fun, family-friendly event such as this are sure to reach far beyond the day itself. Enjoy positive exposure while providing local consumers with an experience they’re sure to remember – right here in Downtown Laurel!

Thank you to Magnolia State Bank for their 6th consecutive 5-Alarm Sponsorship! Their generous support is vital to the success of this popular event as they directly provide the funds for our phenomenal prizes and event marketing. Available sponsorship levels include:

$2,500 Blazing Sponsor

  • Business feature LMS event page/Facebook/newsletter
  • Free cook off team entry
  • Choice of space at event 
  • Logo on event poster 
  • Eight entry tickets for your guests 
  • Eight VIP Breakfast tickets

Become A Blazing Sponsor

$1000 Hot Sponsor

  • Business feature LMS event page/Facebook/newsletter
  • Free cook off team entry
  • Choice of space at event
  • Name on event poster
  • Six entry tickets for your guests
  • Six VIP Breakfast tickets

Become A Hot Sponsor

$500 Spicy Sponsor

  • Business name listed LMS event page/Facebook/newsletter
  • Name on event poster
  • Four entry tickets for your guests
  • Four VIP Breakfast tickets

Become A Spicy Sponsor

Events like the Chili Cook Off just wouldn’t be possible without the support and backing of local businesses. These sponsorships help pay for the prizes, supplies and more! Their donations also help fund the Laurel Main Street Facade & Amenities grant and are directly responsible for the improvements you see in Downtown Laurel.

Please remit sponsorship payment to: Laurel Main Street, PO Box 1256, Laurel, MS 39441
Memo: Chili Cook Off 2018 Sponsorship
DEADLINE: January 27, 2018

Questions?  Contact the Chili Cook Off Chair, Robby Scruggs 601.319.0098 or Laurel Main Street, 601.433.3255.

Be a part of something bigger

Did you know that $1 spent at a local restaurant can result in 88 cents returning to the local economy? That’s nearly double the amount of retail stores and other local businesses, and over 4 times the return from big box stores and national chains. Local restaurants help fuel the economy like no other business, and events like the Chili Cook Off go a long way toward attracting our best chefs and entrepreneurs to the downtown area.

In addition to sparking the imaginations of local entrepreneurs, the Chili Cook Off also serves to directly impact the downtown area by helping to fund the LMS Facade & Amenities grant. This grant helps downtown business owners improve the exterior facade of their buildings, provides amenities like park benches and trash receptacles, and helps to build the economic strength of our beautiful downtown.

Join us February 10, 2018 in Downtown Laurel for the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!

A Banner Year: 2017 Year End Review

2017 was certainly one for the record books!  The Main Street America program saw a ten-year high in community reinvestment. “Despite some media reports about the demise of Main Streets, many local business districts are thriving as a result of sound economic planning and community engagement,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center, which supports the Main Street America communities.

Since 1980, Main Street America communities have reinvested $70.255 billion, created 132,092 new businesses, created 584,422 jobs and rehabilitated 268,053 buildings.

Local Growth

In its 10th year, Laurel Main Street saw record growth as well. More and more people are choosing to live, work and shop in places with a distinct sense of place and strong quality of life.  Over $8.5 million of private money has been invested in the restoration of 14 buildings, 12 business expansions and 22 facade improvements in Downtown Laurel since 2007, resulting in multiple awards from the Mississippi Main Street Association.

The LMS Façade & Amenities grant was created to help downtown business owners refresh and update their downtown buildings. A fully funded grant will reimburse up to one-third of the funds invested in the project by the applicant.  This year, we were able to award over $20,000 in facade grants to downtown business owners.

We are incredibly thankful for the individuals, families, and businesses that have chosen to become a part of the revitalization of Downtown Laurel. Their commitment to growth and positive change is the reason LMS exists, and we could not be more grateful for the 30 new members and 5 new partners who have joined the movement to create a better tomorrow here in Mississippi’s Downtown.

Starting a new business takes a lot of hard work.  We are constantly amazed at the entrepreneurial spirit that lives among us.  It was a busy year, and we were thrilled to welcome 16 new businesses to the downtown community.

The Highlights

Laurel Main Street kicks off each new year with the annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off.  With 28 enthusiastic teams competing and almost 3,000 chili-loving attendees coming out to taste their wares, the 6th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off was our best cook off event yet!

In April, kids of all ages enjoyed our annual Touch a Truck event.  Children and parents enjoyed this unique opportunity to explore vehicles of all types – public service, emergency, utility, construction, transportation, delivery and “fun & flashy” trucks – in one place!

As the temperatures climbed and the summer sun shined fresh produce and homemade goods filled “The Brick Yard” in downtown.  Shoppers found the best of homemade, handcrafted, and homegrown products each Thursday along with an assortment of food trucks.  We are so appreciative of the generous sponsorship from Central Sunbelt Federal Credit Union!  After the market, downtown welcomed droves of movie-goers for Downtown Movie Night, a favorite summertime family tradition, produced by Agape Church.

A little hurricane in the forecast couldn’t keep the scarecrows away!  The 2017 Scarecrow Harvest saw doubled participation and an extra helping of excitement leading up to Loblolly Festival!  Downtown Laurel hosted vendors from across the south, artists, crafters and craftsmen plus musicians and food trucks.  Everyone in attendance enjoyed shopping, festival food, and photos with our lovable Loblolly Lumberjack!

In the fall, activities in Laurel abound as do opportunities to shop local.  We were proud to once again serve as the neighborhood champion for Small Business Saturday, and were thrilled to hear from the downtown retailers who experienced record-breaking sales!

Of course, December Downtown is always a magical time; starting with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Pinehurst Park to the annual Sertoma of Laurel Christmas Parade and Kiwanis Pancake Day.  Laurel Little Theatre‘s showing of The Polar Express movie, the YWCA’s  Victorian Christmas Tea and the Charlie Brown Jazz Christmas presentation, added even more family friendly activities .  The merchants of Downtown Laurel celebrated the Christmas season with an evening of shopping and family fun which included cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, crafts at HAND+made, a live nativity in Makers Alley, and trolley rides throughout downtown!

We were pleased to welcome some special guests to Laurel this year, including the film crew from Blue Magnolia Films which produced a video series celebrating Mississippi’s Bicenntenial.  We were thrilled to host The Market Beautiful not once, but TWICE this year! Historic Downtown Laurel also became an official geo-caching sight, and one of Downtown Laurel’s oldest businesses, Lott Furniture Co.,  celebrated their 100th anniversary.

Whew!  What a year!

Looking Forward

We’re bursting with excitement over the promise of 2018.  You can expect more businesses to open, more events, and more efforts to beautify and restore Historic Downtown Laurel!

December Downtown: Bring on the FUN!

There’s no doubt that Downtown Laurel is a special place, but it shines especially bright during the Christmas season.  Whether you’re admiring the meticulously decorated store windows or taking a stroll under the majestic oaks of 5th Avenue, we invite you to breathe in the magic of the holidays.  Laurel Main Street invites you to fill up, hang out, and kick back while you savor the joy of small-town Christmas.

Make Their Spirits Bright

Are you looking for ways to occupy your youngest family members and visitors?  Make plans to participate in the joy of making with these creative holiday offerings:

Art Class at Lauren Rogers Museum of Art — December 14th from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. — grades K5 – 6th — create your own holiday wonderland with abstract art, winter watercolors, and snowman portraits.  While you’re in the neighborhood, enjoy the charming preserved and restored homes lining Laurel’s brick-paved 5th Avenue.

Enjoy an integrated retail & DIY experience at HAND+made by Clairmont & Co.

Unleash your creative side at Magnolia Alley Artists Co-op, a unique studio where artistic opportunities abound!

Discover the Magic of Enchanting Downtown Laurel

Hidden History: Geo-caching the History of Laurel provides fun for everyone – to kids from 1-92. Go on a “treasure hunt” with your friends or family this holiday season! All around Laurel, containers are hidden at locations with historic, economic, or cultural significance.

Contact Sweet Somethings Bakery to book a carriage ride through downtown.

On December 22nd, from 5-8 PM our downtown merchants will host a very special Christmas after-hours event. Most business will offer extended hours and special events. Lott Furniture Co. and The Laurel Leaf will sponsor a Nativity Scene in Maker’s Alley.  The Laurel Mercantile Co. will show The Polar Express, and HAND+made will host a special Craft & Christmas photo-op. There are more activities and updates to come, so stay tuned!


Fill Up, Hang Out, Kick Back

The Pearl Diner – home cooking that you don’t have to cook at home!  Blue plate lunches are offered Tuesday – Friday beginning at 11:00 a.m.  The Pearl Diner is located on the corner of Oak and Magnolia Streets in the former Burton’s Jewelry building.

The Knight Butcher – Lunch is served at Laurel’s only full-service butcher shop daily from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.  Be sure to check their Facebook page to see their daily lunch specials.  Stop by Monday – Saturday between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. to pick up gourmet meats, delicious homemade fudge, and The Knight Butcher’s famous jerky!

Lee’s Coffee & Tea – Lee’s is a downtown favorite with gourmet coffees, organic teas, soups, paninis, and more.  Enjoy local art while you rest up from your adventures.  Lee’s is open Monday – Thursday from 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., and Sundays from NOON – 5:00 p.m.

Sweet Somethings Bakery – This family-owned bakery and ice cream shop on Central Avenue offers something to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.  Stop by and get your sugar fix any time Monday – Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Shug’s Cookie Dough and Candy Bar – delectable treats to sit and savor or take them to-go are available at Shug’s!  This gourmet cookie dough bar provides sweet treats for all tastes including traditional childhood favorite candies (Jelly Belly! Peach Rings! M&Ms!) to more refined and grown up treats (truffles galore!) all sold by the pound. Shug’s is open Monday – Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Friday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., and Sunday 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria – Laurel’s newest restaurant is open for lunch and dinner!  Enjoy traditional Italian food and wines as well as brick oven pizza.  They’re open Monday – Friday from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m.

The Loft – The Loft has become a downtown staple and serves dinner Tuesday – Saturday beginning at 5:00 p.m.  Enjoy casual dining with indoor and outdoor seating.  Perfect for groups, children, parties and more.

Slowboat Brewing Company – Slowboat Brewing Company is a brewer owned and family operated micro-brewery in historic downtown Laurel.  Their primary focus is small batch artisan styles, including Farmhouse, Wild, Belgian style, Barrel-aged, experimental ales, and an ever-evolving portfolio of popular American craft beer styles. Stop in for samples, tours, trivia, live music and more! For hours and entertainment lineups, visit them on Facebook or Instagram!

More Ways to Make it Merry

Enjoy a day full of Christmas festivities at Landrum’s Country!  The Christmas Candlelight Tour at Landrum’s Country on December 16th is sure to bring out the holiday cheer in all who attend.

We encourage you to enjoy all the locally owned stores and restaurants, make a memory, start a tradition, and most of all, make your holidays merry and bright!