101 Things to do Downtown THIS WEEKEND

Ok… not really 101 things to do, but there is SO much going on this weekend!  Loblolly Festival is all about arts, crafts, food, and family fun!  Here’s the rundown of places to go, drink, eat, and play!

Food + Drinks

Enjoy delicious festival food from the vendors and food trucks that line the 400 block of Oak Street.  You’ll find corn dogs, funnel cakes, fish on a stick, award-winning BBQ, hot tamales, steak sandwiches, baked goods and more!  Stop by the beverage wagon near the Loblolly stage for a cup of Budweiser, Bud Lite, and Michelob Ultra or taste a craft beer brewed locally by Slowboat Brewing Company while you enjoy live music.  It is ok to sip and stroll, just stay within the boundaries of the festival, which is the walkable downtown.  For more information on the sip and stroll ordinance, click here.

If food trucks aren’t your style, never fear.  Your favorite downtown eateries will be open too!  Stop by old favorites such as Café La Fleur, The Loft (dinner only), Lee’s Coffee & Tea, and The Knight Butcher or check out downtown’s newest additions, Sweet Somethings Bakery, Shug’s Cookie Dough and Candy Bar, and The Pearl Diner.

Family + Fun

An expanded Kids’ Zone at Loblolly Festival means there’s something to delight and entertain kids of all ages.  On Yates Avenue (located between the Jones County Courthouse and City Hall), you’ll find fun jumps, rides, slides, train rides and more!

On West Oak Street enjoy face painting, a special craft area at HAND+made and fun learning activities from Central Creativity and STEM Discoveries.  On Central Avenue, big kids will get a thrill from riding the mechanical bull, water surfing, and much more!

Walk through downtown and enjoy the creative, life-size scarecrows on display as part of our Scarecrow Harvest, a growing yearly competition among downtown merchants.

International World Cup champion chainsaw artist, Dayton Scoggins, carves all day near the flagpole in the center of downtown.  You’ll be mesmerized watching him and observing his attention to detail in every cut he makes!

Student artwork painted on Masonite door skins will be on display at Lee’s Coffee & Tea, depicting this years’ theme, “Laurel — 200 years — Celebrating Mississippi’s Bicentennial.”  Be sure to stop in, take a look around, and admire Laurel’s talented young artists!

Your family will love the annual Heritage Arts Festival at Lauren Rogers Museum of Art!  Celebrate Mississippi’s Bicentennial with FREE Mississippi-themed music and art activities.  As part of the exhibition, the museum will host an exhibition of local handmade quilts and feature the woodwork of Ellisville artisan J.B. Christian.  FREE pizza and soft drinks will be served at 11:30 a.m.  Robert G. Rogers will also be at the Heritage Arts Festival to sign his newest book That La Jolla Lawyer, along with his Mississippi favorites: Jodi MaeJennifer’s DreamThe Christian Detective and Lost Indian Gold.

Laurel First United Methodist Church will host their annual Pumpkin Patch fundraiser during Loblolly Festival. The Pumpkin Patch will be open from 12-6 p.m. on Saturday, October 7th, on the front lawn of the church. Purchase a great pumpkin and support the student ministry of FUMC!

The historic Arabian Theatre in Downtown Laurel was once a hot spot for movies before it became home to Laurel Little Theatre.  During Loblolly Festival, relax and enjoy the Arabian Theatre’s First Film Festival!  They will be showing Toy Story, McLintock, and Night of the Living Dead.  Tickets are $5 per person per show or $10 per person for all three.  

Live Music + Entertainment

Enjoy live music on the Loblolly Stage located on North Magnolia Street, The Knight Butcher Stage on Central Avenue, and at the Official Loblolly Afterparty at Slowboat Brewing Company!

Celebrations + More

Meet the Loblolly Lumberjack, Ben Napier from HGTV’s Home Town!  He’s a definite crowd favorite as he towers over the festival goers adorned in plaid and carrying his trusty axe.

Enjoy guided church tours of historic First-Trinity Presbyterian Church, “Laurel’s Cathedral,” beginning 10:30am. An organ concert by director of music, Nathan Jones, will be held in the sanctuary at 11:30am. The church building will be open from 10am to 1:30pm for self-guided tours as well.

Geo-cachers, check your websites and join the hunt for special treasure hidden in historic downtown Laurel!

Stop by Lott Furniture Co. on Front Street, check out their specials, and congratulate the staff on 100 years of continuous service in downtown Laurel!

With so much to see and do downtown this weekend, you’ll want to commemorate all the fun you had, so be sure to visit the Laurel Main Street trailer during Loblolly Festival and purchase an official Loblolly t-shirt or a limited edition Laurel Main Street 10 year anniversary t-shirt.

 

Start Small — Do Big: The Power of Baby Steps

The Power of Baby Steps

The Laurel Mercantile has a fantastic print and now a mug with the uplifting saying, “We have the POWER to do this.”  This phrase was coined by the director of the HGTV series, Home Town, during their first summer of filming in sweltering South Mississippi.  However, this phrase can be applied to anything.  We like to apply this winning saying to our efforts as a Main Street America Accredited organization.  

What started as a small, grass-roots movement to bring back Laurel’s downtown to its former glory has become a booming trend!  It didn’t happen overnight or even over a year, but with a series of small, incremental improvements, these efforts provided momentum for long-term economic transformation and improved quality of life in our community.  In the world of small towns and Main Street organizations this is referred to as “incrementalism.” Incrementalism is not flashy.  It’s several small changes that take place over a period of time… like a domino chain reaction in slow motion. 

Incremental Work

For decades, the community and economic development field was hooked on what Patrice Frey, President & CEO of the National Main Street Center calls the “silver-bullet solution.” Shrinking budgets sent city leaders on a search for the “one big thing” that would transform their local economy, whether it was a big new commercial development, a pedestrian mall, or a convention center on the outskirts of town.  Those of you who lived in Laurel through Urban Renewal will definitely remember the development of all these things.  However, through years of research, we have learned that what our town has is much more important than what it’s missing.  By focusing on what sets our community apart from others, Laurel Main Street, together with the City of Laurel and our partners, has been able to restore a thriving city center in downtown.

One of the special things about being part of Main Street America is that we aren’t doing this incremental work alone. We rely on a national network of partners and supporters.  We are incredibly thankful for our city leaders for creating the environment for success by adding wayfinding signage,  improving our streets, adding lighting, bike paths, ad valorem tax credits and continuing to work toward improving city services that businesses rely on.

Some would say that a town’s exports are the measure of its success, but at Laurel Main Street we believe it’s the people, not the products that are the heart of our town’s success story. These small steps and small victories have provided Laurel residents with an optimism about the future, a true sense of community pride, and a productive spirit of unity.  We consider that a true success story.