Vote Now for Best of the Pine Belt and Best of Mississippi

Voting for the Best of the Pine Belt and for the Best of Mississippi are both currently open. Help us celebrate the best of Jones County by voting in BOTH polls.  It just takes a few minutes to submit your ballots online!

Best of Mississippi

Best of MS 2018

Mississippi Magazine publishes an annual list of the Best of Mississippi — dining out, getting out, and seeking out .  Laurel and Jones County businesses have been featured many times in the past and we hope to see even more representation this year!  Vote for past honorees and new favorites from across our community to be featured as the Best of Mississippi.

You must enter votes for a minimum of 20 categories and you can only submit one entry per e-mail address.  Ready to vote for your favorites?  Click here to access the online ballot for Best of Mississippi 2018.  Voting is open until April 15th.

Best of the Pine Belt

BOTPB logo

Festival South and Signature Magazine will announce the Best of the Pine Belt winners on June 2nd and there are many local businesses nominated.  Look for these categories featuring Laurel/Jones County businesses: Best Bank, Best Men’s Clothing, Best Jewelry Store, Best Vintage/Antiques, Best Full-Service Bakery, Laurel’s Best Ambassador, Best Pine Belt Personality, Best Music Venue, Best Locally-Brewed Beers, Best BBQ, and Best Music Festival.

You may vote ONCE A DAY until April 29th, so keep voting!  Click here to access the online ballot and vote for Best of the Pine Belt 2018.

Thank you for supporting our local businesses.  We can’t wait to see who is recognized this year!

Calling all Crawfish Cookers!

Want to come?

It’s crawfish season and we’re ready to get boiling!  The inaugural Community Bank Downtown Crawfest will take place downtown at the corner of West Oak Street and Front with live music, food trucks, beverages, and teams competing to be the winner! All entries are cooked on site and will be judged by a team of crawfish experts and lovers.

The gates will open at 11:00am and the event will end at 4:00pm. $15 entry band will get you in the gate and all the tasting you can handle!  A $30 entry band will get you in the gate and 5lbs of crawfish to enjoy! KIDS under five enter & eat free! For those who don’t or can’t eat crawfish, “fair food” options will be available for purchase.

Teams will have tasting trays to serve crawfish. Both entries allow attendees to browse teams and taste any or all the crawfish & add-ins, so that they can vote for the People’s Choice of best overall boil.

A Bayou Classic Crawfish Cooker with accessories will be raffled during the event.  1 Ticket for $10 or 3 Tickets for $20 & you do not have to be present to win.

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

The Sertoma Club of Laurel is a local civic organization whose main goal is to help people with speech and hearing disabilities. The organization raises funds through t-ball programs, an annual golf tournament, and the Sertoma Christmas Parade held each year in downtown Laurel.  Funds raised are given back to the community and are used to help with speech therapy, hearing aids or hearing accessories.  The mission of the Sertoma Club is to mission is to improve the quality of life today, through education and support, for those at risk or impacted by hearing loss or speech impairments.

The focus of Laurel Main Street is the preservation and economic growth of Laurel’s Central Business District. Main Street is a unique and effective path to economic development through preservation. Using the four-point approach of organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring, Main Street communities boost local business from the city center outward.  Laurel Main Street raises funds through various community events throughout the year and those funds support the LMS Façade & Amenities grant program as well as downtown beautification projects.  This grant program was created to help downtown business owners refresh and update their downtown buildings. This grant will reimburse up to $5,000 per project for exterior improvements to buildings within downtown Laurel.

Want to compete?

The following links contain contestant information, rules, schedules, etc. for this year’s event.

Crawfish Cook off Rules

Crawfish Cook Off Team Entry Form (Print Version)

Crawfish Cook Off Team Entry Form (Online Version)

Sponsor Levels

Sponsor Letter

Event Schedule

Please download each file and return relevant forms to Laurel Main Street at:

409 W Oak Street, Suite 204                          OR                     P.O. Box 1256
Laurel, MS 39440                                                                       Laurel, MS 39441

Prizes generously provided by Community Bank.

  • Traditional Boil Award:  $500 & a Large Platter by Mandy Buchanan
  • Covfefe (add-ins) Award: $500 & a Large Platter by Mandy Buchanan
  • People’s Choice: $100 & Small Platter by Mandy Buchanan
  • Spirit Tent: $100 & Small Platter by Mandy Buchanan

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!

It’s Time for the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!

On Saturday, February 10, 2018, Downtown Laurel will once again welcome over 3,000 hungry customers and 27 competition teams with their top secret chili recipes. The annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off is one of Laurel Main Street’s most popular events each year. 

At 6:00 a.m. the teams will begin setting up and decorating their booths along Central Avenue.  Teams are given two hours to set up and decorate before the real work begins.  Come early to watch the teams chop and dice their way to victory! All of the teams will prepare their recipes from scratch as attendees look on, mouths watering with anticipation. The event officially begins at 10:00 a.m. 

For just $10, you can enjoy an “all-you-can-eat” bowl.  For $25, enjoy a “bottomless” Carl Buchanan keepsake pottery bowl.  Be sure to eat breakfast before you come though; no chili can be served until the judging begins at 11:00 a.m.

Our expert panel of judges will taste each entry and decide who wins the $1,000 prize in each category.  Who are these experts you ask?

Meet the Judges

Kerri Hinton

Kerri Hinton enjoys catering weddings throughout the south with Special Events Catering Service.  Her favorite way to show love to friends and family is with a gift of home cooked food.  Kerri is married to James Hinton and has two daughters, Valerie and Jamie.  She is expecting her first grandson in April!  Kerri is a member of First Baptist Church of Laurel where she volunteers with the Hospitality Committee and belongs to The Joy Sunday School Class.  She is a graduate of Leakesville High School, JCJC and Mississippi College of Beauty Culture, and is currently a hairdresser at The Nail and Hair Gallery.






Kris Mangum has been employed with Magnolia State Bank since 2009, and served as the President at the Petal location until 2016 when he was named CEO. Kris, a member of the Magnolia State Bank Board of Directors, graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1996 with a BS in Public Administration. At Ole Miss he received All Southeastern Conference and All American honors in the sport of Football. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 1997, where he had a successful 10 year career.






Akeem Davis is a Defensive Back in the NFL.  Akeem was born and raised in Laurel, MS.  He lead Laurel High School to the state title his senior season at QB.  The following year, he attended JCJC before transferring to University of Memphis.  Akee, was the star of the hit NFL Network show, Undrafted.  In 2014, he signed with the Washington Redskins, and played his rookie season in Washington, DC.  Akeem has also played for the Bucs, Saints, Seahawks, Colts, Chiefs, and Jaguars.  He is also the founder of the AD47 Football Leadership Academy, a free, one-day, football skills camp dedicated to promoting leadership, citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.

Akeem and his wife, Sierra, are the proud parents to a daughter, Carsyn, and a son, CJ.




Mimmo Rendina is originally from Salerno, Italy.   He is the chef and owner of Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria with his wife, Jeannie.  Mimmo attended the Culinary School of Florence before moving to the U.S.  He has worked as chef at Tuscany Italian Bistro in Destin, FL and Mimmo’s Pizza in Destin before opening Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria in Quitman.  He opened his Laurel restaurant in November 2017.  Mimmo and his wife, Jeannie, are parents to Elijah and Grayson.








Additional Activities

Each year, at the end of the event, we raffle a 10 gallon cast iron Bayou Classic Jambalaya pot and tripod stand — a $325 value! Tickets for the raffle are $10 for 1 or $20 for 3 and can be purchased from any LMS member or at the event.

Kids Activities

Central Creativity, HAND+made, and Magnolia Alley Artist Co-op will be in the Magnolia Room at Magnolia State Bank from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. providing fun and education activities for kids of all ages!

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 Facade & Amenities grant and are directly responsible for the improvements you see in Downtown Laurel.

Our Signature Sponsor

Magnolia State Bank

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 Buchanan, Community Bank, Mississippi Power, B 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, iHeart Radio and SL100, WDAM, and Studio5Fifty for helping to organize the event and to Central Creativity, HAND+made, and Magnolia Alley Artist Co-op for providing the children’s activities.

Join us February 10, 2018 in Downtown Laurel for the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!

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!