Thank You for a Fantastic Chili Cook Off!

Cloudy skies and scattered showers didn’t keep the crowds away from the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off.  It took a village of people to make this event a success and we couldn’t have done it without them!

Welcome to the Winner’s Circle!

This year’s teams brought their A-game to the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!  Here’s a recap of the winners:

People’s Choice
Knights of Columbus ($200 cash prize and Carl Buchanan pottery)
2018 Peoples Choice
Spirit/Tent Decoration
Laurel Country Club ($200 cash prize and Carl Buchanan pottery)2018 Decoration
Homestyle Category:
3rd – Perfect Temp Storage
2nd – Southern Spice/Ryan Scarborough
Winner – Southern Hospitality ($1,000 cash prize and chili pot trophy)2018 Homestyle Winner
Traditional Category: 
3rd – Peddler’s Junktion
2nd – Phillip’s Drive In
Winner – Crossroads Grilling ($1,000 cash prize and chili pepper trophy)2018 Traditional Winner

Thank You to…

Special thanks to our event chair, Robby Scruggs, for his work in making this event such a success each year.  Robby, and his wife, Angie, open studio5fifty for Laurel Main Street many times each year.  Their staff is always courteous and helpful and we simply can’t thank them enough!

We also owe a huge thanks to the following:

Laurel Main Street board members – for the countless hours you put into making each endeavor we undertake a successful one.

Chili Cook Off Judges – for selflessly giving of your time and taste buds in the name of chili.

Laurel Fire Department & Laurel Police Department – for keeping our volunteers and attendees safe, for being on call, and for going above and beyond your duties.

The City of Laurel Parks and Recreation Department – for your assistance in preparing the downtown area for the influx of visitors.

Carl and Mandy Buchanan – for the beautiful pottery that we awarded and for the “bottomless” bowls that we look forward adding to our collection each year.

Jim Thornhill – DJ extraordinaire – thank you for keeping the tunes going and making the atmosphere downtown bright and sunny, even during torrential downpours!

Diamond Productions – you guys are top notch!  The video screen and live footage during the chili cook off elevated this event beyond our expectations and we can’t wait to work with you again!

Community Volunteers – for the hours of service you provide selling tickets and t-shirts and all you do to make Laurel Main Street events run smoothly.

Of course, this event wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of Magnolia State Bank.  Not only do they sponsor this event each year, but the bank staff also volunteers countless hours in preparation for the event and on the day of the event as well.  This year, Magnolia State Bank opened their Magnolia Room to host an indoor kids’ zone with educational and creative activities from Magnolia Alley Artist Co-op, Central Creativity, and HAND+made.  We are so grateful for the partnership of Magnolia State Bank!

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!

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!

 

 

The Annual Downtown Laurel Christmas Tree Lighting

If you take a drive around the historic district in the coming weeks, there’s one truth you won’t be able to miss – we love Christmas in Downtown Laurel!

From the incredible light display at Mason Park to the shining Christmas trees decorating each home on 6th Avenue; the wreaths lining the streets of downtown and our favorite display of all, the City of Laurel’s official Christmas tree in Pinehurst Park.  It’s clear that we celebrate our favorite season like no one else, and nothing says Christmas in Laurel more than the official lighting of the city Christmas tree.  We would love for you to celebrate this Christmas tradition with us!

The 2017 Laurel Christmas Tree Lighting

Thursday, November 30th | beginning at 5:30 PM

Sponsored by BancorpSouth, the City of Laurel and Laurel Main Street

5:30 p.m. – First Baptist Church Children’s Choir

5:45 p.m. – Strings Students from Life Church – Alexis Frenette, Director

6:00 p.m. – Laurel High School Concert Choir – Katrina Cox, Director

The official welcome will be delivered by Lew Yoder, president of Laurel Main Street, followed by a special greeting by Mayor Johnny Magee. Soon after, the park will spring to life as Seth Assink, President of BancorpSouth, lights our beloved Downtown Christmas Tree.

After the tree lighting, enjoy a special performance by the students of the Laurel Ballet Academy, under the direction of Elizabeth Sweatt

After the Lighting

Don’t miss the festivities at the Laurel-Jones County Library Open House. Bring the kids to meet Santa, enjoy arts and crafts, and free refreshments.

At 6:40 p.m., The Laurel Little Theatre will show The Polar Express.  This family favorite film is being shown free of charge, but donations are accepted at the door.

Many of our downtown merchants will extend their hours for this event so be sure to stick around, shop awhile, and enjoy a stroll under the lights of beautiful downtown Laurel.