Be Golden

A lot of things are golden — rules, ratios, the Laurel High School mascot, silence — and most of the visitors to our hometown are golden as well. But an issue has arisen in our city that we cannot remain silent about any longer. The safety and comfort of our neighbors is being invaded, and we wouldn’t be good neighbors ourselves if we didn’t address it. If you live or own a business in Laurel, please read this. If you’re a fan of our hometown and you’re planning a visit, please read this. If you’re bored at work, heck, you can read this too.

What We Learned in Waco

When Laurel learned that it would be broadcast into homes across the country, the city leadership formed a book club and read What to Expect When You’re Expecting a TV Show, and met each week for coffee and discussion. KIDDING! If only it were that simple! In actuality, several of our city leaders took a trip to Waco, TX, the home of Fixer Upper and the Gaines’s empire. They spoke with business owners, homeowners, and city leaders there, and learned about what we should expect and how we should prepare. The team learned from the mistakes Waco made in the wake of the Fixer Upper frenzy. They decided on the way home from that trip that the city of Laurel, and any organization that worked in cooperation with the city, would never offer tours, maps, or reveal the location of homes featured on the show. The merchants of downtown Laurel whole-heartedly agreed.

It’s Personal

Laurel has welcomed Home Town fans from across the country and around the world. Through all of this interaction with such a vast cross-section of people, we have noticed that good manners and the notion of being a good guest mean different things to different people.

Some of our friends and neighbors have experienced some uncomfortable situations, but many have experienced things that are downright scary. The stories we’ve heard from friends and neighbors sound like they could be the beginning of a true crime TV show, but they’re actually the result of a home improvement TV show.

You may be wondering why Laurel Main Street, an organization that is committed to the economic vitality of downtown Laurel, is addressing this. To that, I’ll say, “It’s personal.” Its personal to all of us because this is our town. It’s personal because we loved Laurel before it was popular and we’ll love it long after the Home Town hype has faded. Laurel Main Street has worked for over a decade to make Laurel a great place to live and work, and we’d like it to stay that way.

If Good Fences Make Good Neighbors…

You know the saying, Good fences make good neighbors”? Its not about tall pieces of wood between two houses; its about respecting boundaries. For the first few years of the show, Home Town fans were happy for a glimpse into The City Beautiful on TV. Visitors to Laurel enjoyed driving down the avenues, trying to spot the homes, and we welcomed those visitors into our town and into our stores with open arms. However, in the past year, a new breed of fan has emerged. These fans don’t love our town. They don’t care about being good neighbors, and they’re not very respectful visitors either. We understand that many guests feel that Laurelites are their oldest and dearest friends. What can we say? Our locals are pretty amazing! Whether you’re a guest in someone’s home or in someone’s hometown there are a few guidelines to follow to make sure you’re respecting their boundaries and will remain friends even after you’re gone.

1. Follow the House Rules

Before you arrive, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the way things are done to avoid any misunderstandings.

  • Respect the personal space of others. Don’t ask where Home Town cast members live. Say hello if you see someone you recognize in public, but respect their privacy when they’re at home.

 

  • Don’t trespass. We have beautiful streets and avenues lined with sidewalks, and we LOVE seeing guests walking around, admiring the architecture and trying to guess who might be behind the front door. However, when someone enters a yard, garden, or porch uninvited, they are trespassing and nobody likes a trespasser.

 

  • Keep the noise to a minimum. Part of the reason that so many people choose to call Laurel home is because of its sleepy, small town qualities. Please don’t drive past homes while honking and yelling at the homeowners.

 

  • Observe polite parking protocol. If you suspect that you have found a home that was featured on Home Town, please do not park in front of it and wait for the home owners to exit. Please do not block driveways in the hopes that a local celebrity will come to personally ask you to move your vehicle and take a photo with you since they’re there.

2. Act More Appropriate Than Usual

Represent your neck of the woods. Make your mama proud. Put your best foot forward. There’s about a dozen ways to say it, but the bottom line is to be your best self. Isn’t that what Home Town does for you? The show features the best parts of small-town life and then invites you to experience it for yourself. Surely, you can return the favor when you visit.

3. Leave Things Better Than You Found Them.

  • Clean up after yourself, your pet, your kids.

Accidents and awkward situations are bound to happen. Be ready with an apology or a helping hand to try to mend the situation as quickly as possible. If you forget everything else, just follow the Golden Rule:

do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

(Matt. 7:12).

Would you want strangers peeking through the slit in your curtains to see what books are on your coffee table? Probably not. Would you want a group of tourists posing for pictures on your front porch swing? My guess would also be no. Would you want a strangers trying to photograph your kids while they play in your house? What about while they play in the yard? Is that ok? That’s a hard no. Children should be off limits.

There’s more to being a great guest than just showing up and being the life of the party. And speaking of parties, the city of Laurel and Laurel Main Street host multiple public events each year, and you’re invited to them all! This is a great way to get a feel for the city, and even to spot some familiar faces you might have seen on Home Town.

We have opened our town to you. We have invited you into our magical piece of the planet, and we are so glad you love Laurel. You can show your appreciation by being kind, courteous, and respectful.

Laurelites, be trustworthy. Show your neighbors you care by checking on them, looking out for their home and property, and protecting their privacy.

For the sake of our city and those who love it, we are asking you to Be Golden. Our city will thank you. Our neighbors will thank you. The Home Town family will thank you. We can make the world a better place one act of kindness at a time.

The Market Beautiful is Coming to The City Beautiful!

Attention shoppers: this is something you won’t want to miss!  The Market Beautiful is bringing their award-winning show to town!  Over 80 vendors, both local and out-of-state, will line Front Street this weekend with fabulous vintage finds and handmade merchandise.  Local stores and merchants will be open as well, and some will even extend their store hours.

The Market Beautiful started in a garage in 2010 with 5 vendors and has grown to shows in 5 states with over 100 vendors and 5,000 attendees on average at each show. This marks their first show in the south and we can’t wait to shower them with our southern hospitality!  Jana Roach and Vanessa Pleasants work full-time to bring an amazing and unique experience to customers, along with the most wonderfully curated vintage finds! In between markets, Jana and Vanessa run their blog and manage their online community via Instagram which has grown to nearly 100,000 dedicated and engaged followers.  Jana and Vanessa carefully select and curate vendors for each show to ensure shoppers are treated to the very best of the best.  Many vendors travel with them because of the success they’ve seen. They truly care about their vendors and customers alike, as well as keeping the show fresh, exciting, and unique!

There will be something for everyone at The Market Beautiful.  Enjoy live music from Tasche De La Rocha, food trucks and sweet/cold treats, coffee, and free kids activities.  Laurel’s own Clairmont & Company will have a kids craft area and Six Point Furniture will present a workshop.  Erin and Ben Napier, hosts of HGTV’s Home Town, will help kick off the inaugural market with a meet and greet too.  The Market Beautiful also offers prizes for the first 50 in line and a lot more!

The Market Beautiful (formerly Vintage Whites) has been named one of the top 4 markets in the United States and voted a top 5 not-to-miss market by Country Living Magazine!

Enjoy the market on Friday night, June 9th for early shopping night. Early shopping tickets are $25 and include a free drink and admission for Saturday! Early shopping night is a more leisurely shopping experience and you get first pick at the merchandise!  Vendors restock on Saturday morning and gates open at 10 AM for general admission. The market goes until 5 PM and is free for kids 12 and under! 

Downtown Home Town Celebration

Join us on Tuesday, May 23rd in Downtown Laurel as we celebrate the season finale of Home Town on HGTV and toast to the upcoming second season!  The homeowners from Season 1 will be in attendance for a meet and greet.  Don’t miss this opportunity to welcome your newest neighbors!

Due to inclement weather, the screening of the show will be held at the Laurel Little Theatre.  Doors to the theatre will open at 8:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 9:00 p.m.  Be sure to check our Facebook page for a complete list of downtown merchants who will be open late!

Many thanks to our generous sponsors: BancorpSouth, Magnolia State Bank, Community Bank, First State Bank, and Citizens Bank, and to the Laurel Little Theatre organization for allowing us to use their space when weather threatened the event.

Top 10 Reasons to be a Tourist in Your Hometown This Summer

Summer is universally known as THE season to travel.  I’ll never understand why traveling while it’s hot as the surface of the sun outside is so appealing, but my family (along with millions of others) does it every year.  It’s expected.  It’s tradition.  We want to make memories and share experiences with those we love, so we research, plan, load up the minivan and hit the road.  There’s a joy and excitement that comes with traveling some place new and discovering something for the first time.  There’s also that wonderful familiarity that comes from returning to the same beach town and restaurants that you’ve frequented for years.

But what if you flip the script this year?  What if you combine the excitement of discovery with the comfort and familiarity of being in your own town?  There are so many new and wonderful things to discover in Laurel, and so many things you may have forgotten all about.  The slower pace of summertime provides the perfect opportunity to be a tourist in your own hometown.  

I don’t know about you, but when I plan a trip, I think about three things: eating, activities, and shopping.  Laurel has all three of these things in a compact and walkable downtown area!

10. Home Town Sightings

In case you haven’t heard, Home Town, the hit show on HGTV that focuses on restoring old homes and welcoming new families to town, has been renewed for a second season!  Although the exact filming schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, you can always spot the hosts of the show, Erin and Ben Napier around town.  Closer to the end of summer, you’ll probably find the film crew too.  If you don’t have any star sightings, you’re sure to notice some of the homes from the first season of the show and get some inspiration for your own home!

Ben & Erin Napier of HGTV's Home Town in the Laurel, MS historic district

Ben & Erin Napier of HGTV’s Home Town in the Laurel, MS historic district / Photo by Bethany Byrd

9. Laurel’s Only Craft Brewery

If you’re looking to kick back and enjoy a cold one in a place with awesome atmosphere, look no further than Slowboat Brewing Company.  Take a tour of the brewery and see what it takes to make some of the best beer you’ve ever tasted.  Slowboat also hosts regular trivia nights and live music acts that you won’t see anywhere else.  Saturday afternoons at Slowboat are completely family friendly with board games, giant Jenga, and food trucks to satisfy everyone. Guided tours begin at the top of every hour. Tours include six 6 oz of samples of Slowboat beer. Children, designated drivers, and pets are welcome and tour for free.  

8. Public Parks that Pack a Punch (of history, that is)

After sampling local craft beer at Slowboat Brewing Company, you might want a nice place to sit and take in the scenery.  Gardiner Park and Mason Park are the perfect spots for this.  In the early 1900s, Laurel was experiencing rapid growth.  The amazing mansions that line 5th Avenue today were brand new and the City Beautiful philosophy had taken hold.  Mrs. Catherine Gardiner, decided that the cutover lands that her husband’s timber business had left behind would be the perfect place for public parks.  As a wealthy and well-travelled woman, she insisted on hiring only the best architects she could find.  She engaged the firm of Fredrick Olmsted, known as the “father of American Architecture” to design a city parkway system for tiny Laurel.  He had already designed New York City’s Central Park and the grounds surrounding the U.S. Capitol so Mrs. Gardiner believed he was just the person to bring her vision to life.  As a result, Laurel was soon declared by the National Recreation Association as having the best park system of any small town in America.  Laurel’s public parks are well-preserved, serene and beautiful places to enjoy an afternoon with family and friends.

Gardiner Park

 

7. Arts & Culture

Laurel has always been an epicenter for arts and culture.  Every elementary school child in Jones County takes a field trip to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art** to see the Native American basket collection, but did you know that this museum also hosts some of the world’s finest traveling art exhibits too?  Who needs to travel to a large city and go to a crowded museum when you can visit your local museum for FREE?  LRMA is also the host to Free Family Art Days, summer art camps, and even art classes for adults.  Check their website or call for a complete schedule of summer events and special exhibits.

Lauren Rogers Museum of Art

The Laurel Little Theatre** recently brought back the roaring 20s when they celebrated the 90th anniversary of the grand opening of the Arabian Theatre.  Not only does the Arabian Theatre boast amazing architecture, but it hosts amazing performances as well.  I spent countless summers of my childhood involved with the Laurel Little Theatre and will never forget the sense of pride and accomplishment when we finally got to perform for a live audience after weeks of rehearsal.  Those who attended performances at LLT also made an indelible mark on those of us who performed.  It showed us that we were not an isolated community of small-town actors, but that we were part of a community who supported our big-time dreams.  This summer, LLT will host its annual Kids’ Camp, which will culminate in the performance of Disney’s The Lion King Jr.  In August, LLT will kick off their 57th season with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a high-energy musical spectacular that has been a favorite of theatre goers for decades. 

The Arabian Theatre

6. Central Sunbelt Summer Series

The Downtown Laurel Farmer’s Market** and Downtown Movie Night are some of the most anticipated summer events in Laurel.  The Farmer’s Market is held at The Brickyard in Downtown Laurel each Thursday in June from 3:30 – 7:00 p.m.  Farmers, home cooks, and artisans come from all over Mississippi to bring you homegrown produce and handmade goodies.  Fresh bread, heirloom tomatoes and fresh squeezed blueberry lemonade are always local favorites.  Plus, admission to the Farmer’s Market and Downtown Movie Night is FREE.  

After the Downtown Farmer’s Market winds down, meander over to The Backlot for Movie Night.  Bring your lawn chairs and picnic blankets to enjoy a movie under the stars with a hundred or so of your neighbors!  Family-friendly films such as “Finding Nemo” are shown each week on a giant outdoor movie screen.  Food and drinks are available for purchase or you can bring your own and enjoy a picnic under the stars!  Movies start at 8 p.m. 

4. The Market Beautiful

The Market Beautiful is coming to The City Beautiful June 9th-10th!  Formerly known as The Vintage Whites Market, this one-of-a-kind show offers live music, great food, fun family activities, vintage-inspired and trend-setting artisans, but most of all, FABULOUS VINTAGE FINDS!  The owners and organizers of The Market Beautiful host vintage markets across the United States and have been ranked among the Top 4 markets to visit by Romantic Homes & Flea Market Style!  The vendors chosen for The Market Beautiful specialize in repurposed furniture, architectural salvage, industrial pieces, primitives, antiques and other vintage items.  You’re bound to find something here that you can’t live without.  Tickets are on sale now! 

3. Speaking of Shopping…

Hello, my name is Carrie and I’m a shopaholic.  I enjoy shopping for anything, for anyone, at anytime.  A LOT has changed in Laurel since the inception of Laurel Main Street 10 years ago.  One of the biggest changes has to be the shopping and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  Gone are the days of driving to Hattiesburg (or further!) just to find a dress for Easter Sunday, or a baby gift for your neighbor.  There haven’t been this many unique and thoughtful shops in downtown since I’ve been alive and I just want to go inside each one and high five all the brave business owners.  If I were to write a little something about each and every shop in downtown, it would be enough for a book, so I’m just going to list them below.  Trust me, there is something for everyone. 

Places to Shop:

7th StyleAdam Trest HomeFine Art by Amy LukerBaptist Bible & Book House | Bella BellaCloset CandyElegant Evenings | Guild & Gentry* | Goodness Gracious | HAND+made by Clairmont&Co.* | J. Parker ReclaimedJack & Jill Children’s ConsignmentThe Laurel LeafLaurel Mercantile Co.The Loblolly BoutiqueLott Furniture Co.Misty’sMolly Renee’s New LookOffice Products CenterPatina’sPeddler’s JunktionQuarter Century** | Six Point Furniture | The Paper Studio | The Rusty Chandelier** | Southern Antiques** | Woodcut Funhouse

3. Dining

My other favorite thing is eating.  I plan every trip I take around the food, and a “trip” in my hometown is no exception. When you’re on vacation, you try to cook as little as possible, right?  When you’re on a STAY-cation, the same rules apply.  Laurel itself has plenty of restaurants to choose from, but we’re going to focus on downtown.

Did you know you can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in 1/4 of a mile?  You can literally eat your way through downtown if that’s your thing.  Whether you want a sit-down dinner, food truck fare, a casual lunch, or specialty coffee and breakfast, you’re in luck. 

Places to Eat:

BackRoad BistroCafé La FleurLee’s Coffee & TeaThe Knight ButcherThe LoftThe Pearl Diner* | Phillip’s Drive-In (P.D.I.)Sweet Somethings Bakery

2. Horse Drawn Carriage Rides Downtown

What do you do when you go to New Orleans for the first time?  Catch a ride in a horse drawn carriage of course!  New York City?  Horse drawn carriage.  Laurel, Mississippi?  HORSE. DRAWN. CARRIAGE.  Sweet Somethings Bakery and Sweet Somethings Bed & Breakfast now offer rides in a carriage fit for a Disney princess.  Could you imagine a more magical and romantic thing than riding in a horse drawn carriage under the lights of downtown?  We didn’t think so.  Guys, if you’re looking to wow your sweetheart or (gasp!) PROPOSE, this would be the way to go.  You won’t find them hanging out on the street corner though, so be sure to call well in advance to make your plans.

1. Lauren Rogers Museum of Art Blues Bash

On June 2nd, The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art** will host their 24th Annual Blues Bash on the front lawn of the museum.  The music is always top notch, as is the barbecue!  Everyone sets up picnic blankets and lawn chairs, and the crowd spills out onto picturesque Fifth Avenue and the lawns and porches of neighboring houses.  You’ll see everyone you know and some people you forgot you knew.  The Blues Bash provides an atmosphere that could even rival that of The Grove on gameday.  Yes, I said it.  Blues + Barbecue = Summertime Perfection.  Advance tickets are available at the museum and online or you can buy them the day of the bash.

LRMA Blues Bash

 

Put on your walking shoes and leave your luggage at home!  Look at your hometown through the eyes of a tourist and you’ll be surprised what you see.

 

*Business opening soon!

**Best of Mississippi/M-List Award Recipient 2016

PRESS RELEASE: HGTV Pilot “Home Town” Featuring Laurel, Miss. to Premiere January 24th

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Judi Holifield
Laurel Main Street
hometown@erinandben.co
601-207-4128

HGTV Pilot “Home Town” Featuring Laurel, Miss.
to Premiere January 24th

Laurel, Miss. – Jan. 11, 2016 – HGTV will premiere the pilot episode of “Home Town” on Sunday, January 24 at 11:00 a.m. CT. The show features Erin and Ben Napier showing new residents the benefits of small-town life while finding, buying and renovating a home in Laurel, Miss.

“Ben and I aren’t house flippers,” said Erin. “We’re just two people who want others to see the magic of small town living and everything it has to offer.”

In the episode, the Napiers guide a new family in search of an old home in the historic southern town of Laurel, Miss. With the help local architects, builders and craftsmen, Erin and Ben implement their design and vision to restore the old house. If the pilot is successful, the show could become a series on HGTV. “When you live in a small town, you can make a difference. It’s affordable. You can travel and see the world, but the small towns are important. That’s where most people’s lives begin,” said Ben, who hopes the show could be a catalyst that brings other young families back home to their small towns all over America.

College sweethearts and graduates of the University of Mississippi, this creative couple own several businesses including wedding stationery boutique Lucky Luxe Heirloom Design, Lucky Luxe Dry Goods, and Scotsman Co. which features handcrafted furniture by Ben as well as some of his “favorite things” that speak to masculine vintage style.

For more information and behind-the-scenes photos, fans can visit:
http://www.erinandben.co
https://www.facebook.com/HometownonHGTV

About HGTV

America’s leading home and lifestyle brand, HGTV features a top-rated cable network that is distributed to more than 96 million U.S. households and HGTV.com, the premier source for home-related inspiration, instruction and entertainment, attracts more than six million people each month. The brand also includes the HGTV HOME™ consumer products line which showcases exclusive collections of paint, flooring, furniture, plants, fabrics and other home-oriented products. For more information on HGTV HOME branded products and to find a retailer, go to www.hgtvhome.com. In partnership with Hearst Magazines, the HGTV Magazine, a home and lifestyle publication, is currently available on newsstands. Viewers can become fans of HGTV and interact with other home improvement enthusiasts through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., HGTV is owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc. (SNI).

About Laurel Main Street

Founded in 2007, Laurel Main Street is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to revitalizing historic downtown Laurel, Miss., through preservation and economic growth. They recently received accreditation from the National Main Street Program and maintain membership with the Mississippi Main Street Association. To learn more about Laurel Main Street, please visit www.laurelmainstreet.com.

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