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.

The Park That Safety 1st Built

When baby gear company Safety 1st approached local HGTV personalities, Ben & Erin Napier about sprucing up a park in Laurel for a commercial shoot, their initial response was “All of our parks are beautiful already.  We can’t think of a single one that needs a makeover on this scale.” Then, friend Josh Nowell had a lightbulb moment… What about Trustmark Park on the corner of Oak and Magnolia Streets?  It might be a little tricky though… the park was owned by the bank.  

After a meeting with Trustmark Bank officials, the City of Laurel, Laurel Main Street, Ben, and Josh, the bank agreed to donate the park to the city.  The city accepted the park and agreed to its maintenance.  Neel-Schaffer designed a beautiful and functional space and provided support throughout the construction process.  Laurel Main Street received the funds from Safety 1st for the renovation and work began.  

Old, tangled ground cover was removed to make way for artificial turf.  The turf makes a soft and safe play space for children, and is an easy to clean alternative to grass or wood chips. A hill was created in the middle of the park — perfect for rolling and sliding down!  

 

Beyond creating a safe and welcoming space, we desired a space that would reflect the personality of our town as well.  For that, local artist, Adam Trest, designed custom fence panels which were manufactured locally by C & C Specialties.  For the purpose of the Safety 1st commercial shoot in the park, their logo was painted on the brick facade of the building bordering the park.  Soon, this facade will be repainted with a custom mural, designed by Adam Trest to compliment the fence panels.

We would like to thank Safety 1st for their generous donation to our community.  However, we would be remiss if we did not also thank Laurel Main Street Board President, Lew Yoder, for negotiating the donation of the park.

At the grand opening of the newly renovated park, children enjoyed toys and activities from Crescent Line Toys, and swings from the Laurel Mercantile.  Special thanks to Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria for catering this event with their delicious pizzas, and to Shug’s Cookie Dough and Candy Bar for providing sweet treats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Deepest Thanks to:

Safety 1st

The Napier Family

Josh Nowell

Trustmark Bank

The City of Laurel

Neel-Schaffer Engineers

Dunn Roadbuilders

Landmark Landscape

Cynthia Rahaim, Horticulturist

Laurel Mercantile

Crescent Line Toys

Adam Trest

C & C Specialties

Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria

Shug’s Cookie Dough & Candy Bar

Photo credit: Laura Jones

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.