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.

Meet the Judges for the 2020 Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off

The annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off will take place on Central Avenue in beautiful downtown Laurel on Saturday, February 8, 2020. Teams from across the state will compete to win the chili trophy. The job of judging all that deliciousness can’t be easy, but we’ve rounded up a team of tasters who are up to the task!

Meet the Judges

Joe BerlinJoe Berlin is a 23 year veteran of law enforcement. Before being elected as Sheriff of Jones County, Berlin was a Sergeant in the Laurel Police Department. Sheriff Berlin is married and has two daughters. He loves fishing, spending time with his family, and serving the citizens of Laurel and Jones county.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica Bowman is the WDAM 7 Sunrise morning anchor. The Texas native is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. During her years as a Golden Eagle she honed her skills interning in the newsroom at ABC’s World News Tonight in New York.

She started her reporting career on the Mississippi Gulf Coast before moving to Jackson, and eventually joining WDAM as an anchor and reporter.

She is an Associated Press award-winning reporter and has covered hurricanes, oil spills, state corruption trials, high profile homicide investigations and other extraordinary feature stories.

 

Akeem Davis is a former American football safety that played in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Memphis, and signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Davis has also been a member of the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars.

He is currently the cornerbacks coach for the University of Southern Mississippi. Davis is married to his high school Sweetheart, Sierra Sky Davis and they are parents to daughter Carsyn, and son, Corinthian Akeem Davis II.

Davis is also the founder of the AD47 Football Leadership Academy. The AD47 Football Leadership Academy is a free, one-day, football skills camp, dedicated to promoting leadership, citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. AD47 is sanctioned and insured by the NFL Foundation and run in partnership with USA Football through the FUNdamentals program. The inaugural AD47 was held in Laurel, MS in June 2015, and featured 53 school children, ages 8–12 from across the Laurel area.

Angela Tarrant is the Executive Producer and Showrunner for HGTV’s Home Town, set in beautiful Laurel, MS.  She has been working on the show since helping produce the pilot episode in 2015.

Angela has directed and produced several pilots and sizzle reels for HGTV, including The HousleysHome Stretch, Make Me Rich and Rough Housing.

Before starting a career in home renovation television, Angela spent 15 years working on national news programs in New York and Washington, DC. They include On the Record with Greta Van Susteren at Fox News, The Abrams Report and Scarborough Country on MSNBC and Burden of Proof and American Morning on CNN.

Angela was born in Marietta, Georgia and received her B.A. in journalism and political science from DePauw University. 

 

Originally from Meridian, MS, Andy Webb is an On-Air Radio Personality who’s entertained & informed listeners from Mississippi to South Carolina (and back again) for 25 years. Andy won the Mississippi Association of Broadcasters’ “Radio Personality of the Year” award four out of five years (2006-2010), and has been featured on numerous formats, including Country, Classic Rock, Adult Contemporary, Hot AC, Southern Gospel, and even Urban AC. You can now hear him weekday mornings from 6am-10am on B95’s “Breakfast Club.” Andy currently resides in Hattiesburg with his wife, Emma, and his daughter, Isabel.

 

 

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 Façade & Amenities grant and are directly responsible for the improvements you see in downtown Laurel.

Our Signature Sponsor

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 BuchananCommunity BankMississippi PowerB 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, Supertalk Radio, WDAM, and Studio5Fifty for helping to promote and organize the event.

Who’s Sitting in the Hot Seat?

Community Bank’s Downtown Crawfest is THIS SATURDAY, April 27!  Over 25 teams will line Front Street with crawfish pots, time-tested recipes, and a common goal — to WIN Crawfest 2019!  Judges for this year’s competition range from home cooks to professional chefs to crawfish enthusiasts and they can’t wait to see what this year’s teams serve up.

Meet the Judges

Laurel City Councilman, Tony Wheat, makes his inaugural appearance as a Crawfest judge!  Tony grew up in Laurel and has been serving the City as Councilman, Ward 2 since 2005. He has been in the restaurant business most of his life and is an avid home cook.  Seafood is his specialty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mickey Howley is a half Cajun from New Orleans lost in North Mississippi since 1999. He has the same job in Water Valley as Judi Holifield does in Laurel. He even has a Laurel connection, his paternal grandmother grew up here. Years ago when he had hair, he captained a shrimp boat named “Monkey Do II.” He has boiled many crustaceans.

 

 

 

Roderick Hollins is originally from Vicksburg, MS and holds degrees in Culinary Arts (JCJC) as well as Hotel and Restaurant Management (USM).  He is a former Culinary Arts teacher at Laurel High School, where he led his students to win multiple state awards.  Roderick is currently a local youth minister and owner of HI5Eats, where he teaches meal prep, catering and ServSafe classes.  He is married to Courtney Hollins and they have three children.

 

 

 

 

Tim Harland, a long time resident of Louisiana, is the Director of Photography on the HGTV show, Home Town. He has worked on a number of food focused shows and has enjoyed crawfish at parties from the bayous of Avoyelles to the banks of Lake Pontchatrain. He and his wife, Jean, are looking forward to spending another sweaty summer shooting the 4th season of Home Town in Laurel. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roxanne Dunn has dabbled in the culinary arts all her life.  Her mother was an Executive Chef with outstanding achievements throughout the  country. Roxanne graduated from St. Mary’s Dominican College holding a BS degree in art and a Master’s degree in Language Arts from Holy Cross University.  Various pieces of her art have been commissioned and donated to charities.   She has travelled abroad extensively and worked with “The Apple Club” in Italy for over a year.  Roxanne resides in Laurel and studies under renowned Chef John Diggetts of The Loft on Central, where on Sundays one may taste her fair. She is currently writing her memoirs as she continues her art.

 

 

 

 

 

Official Schedule of Events

7:oo a.m. — Team set up and cooking begins.  All of the teams will prepare their recipes from scratch.  No crawfish will be served until the gates open at 11:00 a.m.

10:00 a.m. — Team check in

11:00 a.m. — Gates open and judging begins! Lloyd “Hurricane” Munn & the Forecasters will entertain the crowds while they sample their way down Front Street.

2:00 p.m. — Announcement of Winners All prizes have generously been donated by our event sponsor, Community Bank.

Traditional Boil Award: $500 and a large platter by Mandy Buchanan

Covfefe (add-ins) Award: $500 and a large platter by Mandy Buchanan

People’s Choice: $100 and small platter by Mandy Buchanan

Spirit/Decorations: $100 and small platter by Mandy Buchanan

4:00 p.m. — Event ends

7:30 p.m. — Official after party begins at Slowboat Brewing Co.  Holley Rumbarger kicks things off at 7:30, followed by Spencer Thomas of Young Valley.  As always, shows at Slowboat are open to all ages, and are pet friendly.  Please support LIVE music and LOCAL beer!

Tickets, t-shirts, and more!

For just $15 per person, you can taste as much crawfish crawfest crowdand fixins’ as your belly can handle.  For $30 per person, you’ll enjoy five pounds of crawfish from the Craw Daddy Shack, plus all the tastings from our teams. Children 12 and under eat free.  Upon entry, everyone will receive one ticket to vote for People’s Choice.  Please remember to vote for your FAVORITE crawfish!

For those who can’t or don’t eat crawfish, Chick-fil-a will be on-site with options for purchase.  We suggest bringing cash.  Checks will not be accepted as payment for entry.  However, if you forget or run out of cash, an ATM is located at 401 Central Ave. at the Laurel Welcome Center.

Please note:  Although we love our furry friends, we ask that you leave your pets at home.  Thank you!

Southern Beverage will be on-hand with your favorite Budweiser products and your hometown favorite, Slowboat Beer.  If you plan on purchasing or drinking beer at this event, please remember to bring your I.D. 

Be sure to stop by the Laurel Main Street concession trailer to purchase your Crawfest T-shirt!  Laurel Main Street will also be selling Coca-Cola products and water.

Kids’ Activities

Thanks to the generous donation of Leadership Jones County and Team “Fours of Nature” the Imagination Playground blocks will be available for kids to get creative and play all day!

Thank you to our incredible Sponsors and Producers!

Events like the Downtown Crawfest 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 Façade & Amenities grant and are directly responsible for the improvements you see in Downtown Laurel.  Additionally, this event will the benefit the Sertoma Club of Laurel whose mission is to enhance the lives of those who have speech or hearing impairments.

Lagniappe Sponsor

 

Boil Master Sponsors

Big Pincher Sponsor

Southern Beverage Company

Craw Daddy Sponsors

Coca Cola United| The Craw Daddy Shack | Mississippi Power

Mud Bug Sponsors

Woodland Realty | Endom Trailer | Caves & Caves, PLLC | Kim’s No Bull | Phillip’s Building Supply | Rent-All of Laurel

Event Producers

Suez Water | The City of Laurel | Lott Furniture Co. | The Pinehurst Rathskellar Art Gallery | Laurel Main Street | Sertoma of Laurel

Stage Sponsor

Transafe, LLC

Loblolly Festival: Things to Know Before You Go

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — It’s time for Loblolly Festival!  This year’s festival is one you won’t soon forget because it’s our largest Loblolly Festival EVER!  Here are some tips to help you enjoy the festival, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned veteran.  Loblolly Festival is one of Laurel’s biggest events with over 12,000 people attending annually, so lace up your walking shoes, it’s festival time!

Beat the Crowds:

The festival officially starts at 9am, so if you want to get first pick of the merchandise or avoid the crowds, come early.

Get a T-Shirt While You Can:

Stop by the Laurel Main Street trailer, which will be stationed on West Oak St., and purchase a Loblolly Festival t-shirt.  Make this one of your first stops because these shirts will go fast!

Wear Your Walking Shoes:

Loblolly Festival covers almost all of the central business district of downtown Laurel and includes over 120 vendors, crafters, performers, and activities. You’re bound to see a lot of people you know and some you forgot you knew!

Check the map and schedule:

When you arrive be sure to pick up a map.  If you’re a strategic shopper, this will definitely make it easier for you to find any specific vendors you came to see.  

2018 Loblolly map

Bring cash:

Some vendors accept credit cards, but not all do.  There is an ATM located downtown at the Laurel Welcome Center inside the First National Bank building.

Be sure to check out the brick and mortar merchants too:

Most downtown retail stores and restaurants are open during the festival and many offer sales, specials, and live entertainment.

Check the weather:

Loblolly Festival is a rain or shine event so check the weather and dress accordingly.  The Laurel YWCO will be open and available to the community from 10am – 2pm during the Loblolly Festival.  Come in to cool off and enjoy your lunch in the tea room! 

MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards: Main Street Hero

The Mississippi Main Street Association‘s award for Main Street Hero recognizes one outstanding community leader or public figure who has displayed an involved commitment to downtown and his or her Main Street program.  On June 21, 2018, Mallorie Rasberry received this honor at the annual MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards in Jackson, MS. The following narrative was written by Ethan Davis and was submitted to the Mississippi Main Street judges panel.

Mallorie Main Street Hero

Main Street Hero

There are people who are dedicated volunteers and passionate advocates for their towns. They are at almost every event and are valued. You give them awards to show your appreciation and thank them constantly for their service.

Then, there are people who have been there since the beginning, are at every event, and you never get the opportunity to thank them because, if you did, you’d never be able to stop. There are people without whom the success of the organization is immediately called into question. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Mallorie Rasberry.

Mallorie is a wife and mother, an accountant, a business owner, and perhaps the single greatest advocate for Downtown Laurel, Mississippi on the face of the planet. She started out on the Promotions Committee and has served in nearly every officer position on the Laurel Main Street board in her 8 years with the organization. She has acted as de facto treasurer for most of her tenure on the LMS board and has seen a fair number of sunrises while volunteering. Mallorie and her husband, Jim, generously offered the space for the Laurel Welcome Center and storage for the plethora of signs and shirts LMS always has on hand. She welcomes visitors to Laurel daily and now shares the Laurel Main Street story nationally on HGTV’s Hometown.

The list of reasons why Mallorie is a hero to Laurel Main Street can fill pages, but it all emanates from her sincere belief that Downtown Laurel is a place worth saving. That belief is what keeps her feet moving toward the goal of a fully vibrant and restored Laurel. She feels so strongly about this that she is part of the group that spoke at the closing session of the National Main Street Conference about what a Downtown Comeback was all about.Mallorie Downtown Comeback Mallorie could have left Laurel Main Street; after all, she had plenty of other things vying for her time. But, she chose to stay in the trenches and fight every day. She chose to do whatever she could whenever she could to bring her hometown back. Not many people would stick around for almost 10 years, running most of that time on hope and coffee, but Mallorie did.

Whenever someone in Laurel Main Street needs encouragement or to be reminded that the work is worth the effort, we casually point at Mallorie and say, “She was here when Laurel had been abandoned; she was here fighting when no one believed in this place, and she did it while raising a daughter and working full time. If she can do it, you can too.” What else can we call her besides hero?

On Thursday, June 21, 2018 the Mississippi Main Street Association hosted their 29th Annual Downtown Revitalization Awards Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson, MS.  Each year Mississippi Main Street recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization and honors local Main Street champions.  This is a wonderful opportunity to show the success of Laurel Main Street, to exchange ideas with other Main Street organizations, and is especially encouraging to see other thriving and successful communities.