“The One” Awards

Once a year the Laurel Main Street organization honors members of our downtown community for their commitment to the Main Street cause and their dedication to our community with “The One” Awards.  The awards were named for a phrase that pops up again and again during brainstorming or event planning sessions: “Those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of THE ONEs who are doing it!”  On April 26th, we celebrated the dreamers, the doers, and THE ONES whose desire to leave things better than they found it is evident in all their pursuits.

This year, we enjoyed a beautiful evening at the home of LMS board members, Mallorie & Jim Rasberry.  Attendees enjoyed perfect spring weather, great food, and fellowship with those who share their affinity for downtown Laurel.  Awards were created by local calligrapher and artist Jade Yoder of Paper Studio and were presented by Laurel Main Street President, Lew Yoder.

Downtown Business of the Year

Chad & Terri Knight, owners of The Knight Butcher, were named Downtown Business of the Year.  They are THE ONES who have completed such a tremendous amount of work on their storefront and have also worked tirelessly to create an engaging and inviting atmosphere.  Their work outside their store, in the downtown community, is widespread as well, and we appreciate their dedication to downtown Laurel and Laurel Main Street!  Whether they’re rallying downtown merchants, creating secret Easter egg hunts downtown, or hosting Laurelpalooza, the Knights have shown their love for downtown knows no bounds.

THE ONE Award

THE ONE Award is presented each year to Laurel Main Street’s top volunteer.  This year, James & Nece Hill and Agape Church received THE ONE Award.  The Hills began their service to downtown Laurel ten years ago when few others had a vision of what downtown Laurel could be.  They renovated the former Woolworth’s building and built a modern church in the center of downtown.  Agape Church’s desire to serve the community around them is a direct reflection of the Hill’s heart for service and love of Laurel.  Agape Church is responsible for Downtown Movie Night, one of the most anticipated family events of the summer.  Without their manpower, Downtown Movie Night wouldn’t happen.  Agape Church will also provide the volunteers for this summer’s Downtown Laurel Farmers Market.  We are so incredibly thankful for the Hills and the congregation of Agape Church for their loyalty and dedication to Laurel Main Street and the revitalization of downtown Laurel!The ONE Award

 

Prepare the Way for the 7th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!

On Saturday, February 10, 2018, Downtown Laurel will come alive as the thrill of intense competition fuels the teams lining historic Central Avenue for the 7th annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off.  Join us for one of Laurel Main Street’s most popular events and expose your business (and your top secret chili recipe) to over 3,000 hungry customers!

Come early to watch the teams set up and prepare their recipes from scratch.  No pre-chopping or pre-cooking allowed!  Each team prepares and cooks their secret chili recipe right out in the open for all to watch. Judging begins at eleven, when our expert panel tastes each entry and decides who wins the $1,000 grand prize in each category.

For just $10, you can enjoy an “all-you-can-eat” bowl or for $25, enjoy a “bottomless” Carl Buchanan keepsake pottery bowl. Tasting begins at 11:30a.m. and the winners are announced at 12:30p.m. 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.

Compete for a $1,000 GRAND PRIZE

Is your signature chili the talk of the town? Does your organization, business or group have a team ready to face the competition during the 2018 Chili Cook Off? Here’s your chance to show off your favorite recipe and compete for our fabulous prizes, all while contributing to the continued growth and revitalization of our beautiful Downtown!

Prizes generously provided by Magnolia State Bank

1st place Traditional: $1000 & the traveling chili trophy

1st place Homestyle:  $1000 & the traveling chili pot trophy

People’s Choice: $200 & Hand-crafted pottery by Carl Buchanan

Spirit Tent Award: $200 & Hand-crafted pottery by Carl Buchanan

Assemble your team of 5 or less members, gather your ingredients (all chili must be cooked on site) and prepare to face the judges!

Forms & Information

Download the forms below and return them to Laurel Main Street at 409 Oak Street (on the 2nd floor of Lee’s Coffee and Tea) by February 5, 2018 and get ready to delight the crowds and defeat the competition on February 10th!

Judging

In order to ensure fairness, teams will be scored in five categories based on their anonymous submission for tasting. Judges will evaluate entries based on color, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste (or bite).

Grand prize winners will be chosen for two categories–Traditional and Homestyle–and will receive $1000 and a traveling trophy. May the best chili win!

Want to compete in this year’s cook off? Click HERE to download registration forms.

Sponsorship Opportunities

This ever-growing event is THE place to be this February and the SPONSORSHIP DEADLINE is January 27, 2018.

The benefits of sponsoring a fun, family-friendly event such as this are sure to reach far beyond the day itself. Enjoy positive exposure while providing local consumers with an experience they’re sure to remember – right here in Downtown Laurel!

Thank you to Magnolia State Bank for their 6th consecutive 5-Alarm Sponsorship! Their generous support is vital to the success of this popular event as they directly provide the funds for our phenomenal prizes and event marketing. Available sponsorship levels include:

$2,500 Blazing Sponsor

  • Business feature LMS event page/Facebook/newsletter
  • Free cook off team entry
  • Choice of space at event 
  • Logo on event poster 
  • Eight entry tickets for your guests 
  • Eight VIP Breakfast tickets

Become A Blazing Sponsor

$1000 Hot Sponsor

  • Business feature LMS event page/Facebook/newsletter
  • Free cook off team entry
  • Choice of space at event
  • Name on event poster
  • Six entry tickets for your guests
  • Six VIP Breakfast tickets

Become A Hot Sponsor

$500 Spicy Sponsor

  • Business name listed LMS event page/Facebook/newsletter
  • Name on event poster
  • Four entry tickets for your guests
  • Four VIP Breakfast tickets

Become A Spicy Sponsor

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.

Please remit sponsorship payment to: Laurel Main Street, PO Box 1256, Laurel, MS 39441
Memo: Chili Cook Off 2018 Sponsorship
DEADLINE: January 27, 2018

Questions?  Contact the Chili Cook Off Chair, Robby Scruggs 601.319.0098 or Laurel Main Street, 601.433.3255.

Be a part of something bigger

Did you know that $1 spent at a local restaurant can result in 88 cents returning to the local economy? That’s nearly double the amount of retail stores and other local businesses, and over 4 times the return from big box stores and national chains. Local restaurants help fuel the economy like no other business, and events like the Chili Cook Off go a long way toward attracting our best chefs and entrepreneurs to the downtown area.

In addition to sparking the imaginations of local entrepreneurs, the Chili Cook Off also serves to directly impact the downtown area by helping to fund the LMS Facade & Amenities grant. This grant helps downtown business owners improve the exterior facade of their buildings, provides amenities like park benches and trash receptacles, and helps to build the economic strength of our beautiful downtown.

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

A Banner Year: 2017 Year End Review

2017 was certainly one for the record books!  The Main Street America program saw a ten-year high in community reinvestment. “Despite some media reports about the demise of Main Streets, many local business districts are thriving as a result of sound economic planning and community engagement,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center, which supports the Main Street America communities.

Since 1980, Main Street America communities have reinvested $70.255 billion, created 132,092 new businesses, created 584,422 jobs and rehabilitated 268,053 buildings.

Local Growth

In its 10th year, Laurel Main Street saw record growth as well. More and more people are choosing to live, work and shop in places with a distinct sense of place and strong quality of life.  Over $8.5 million of private money has been invested in the restoration of 14 buildings, 12 business expansions and 22 facade improvements in Downtown Laurel since 2007, resulting in multiple awards from the Mississippi Main Street Association.

The LMS Façade & Amenities grant was created to help downtown business owners refresh and update their downtown buildings. A fully funded grant will reimburse up to one-third of the funds invested in the project by the applicant.  This year, we were able to award over $20,000 in facade grants to downtown business owners.

We are incredibly thankful for the individuals, families, and businesses that have chosen to become a part of the revitalization of Downtown Laurel. Their commitment to growth and positive change is the reason LMS exists, and we could not be more grateful for the 30 new members and 5 new partners who have joined the movement to create a better tomorrow here in Mississippi’s Downtown.

Starting a new business takes a lot of hard work.  We are constantly amazed at the entrepreneurial spirit that lives among us.  It was a busy year, and we were thrilled to welcome 16 new businesses to the downtown community.

The Highlights

Laurel Main Street kicks off each new year with the annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off.  With 28 enthusiastic teams competing and almost 3,000 chili-loving attendees coming out to taste their wares, the 6th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off was our best cook off event yet!

In April, kids of all ages enjoyed our annual Touch a Truck event.  Children and parents enjoyed this unique opportunity to explore vehicles of all types – public service, emergency, utility, construction, transportation, delivery and “fun & flashy” trucks – in one place!

As the temperatures climbed and the summer sun shined fresh produce and homemade goods filled “The Brick Yard” in downtown.  Shoppers found the best of homemade, handcrafted, and homegrown products each Thursday along with an assortment of food trucks.  We are so appreciative of the generous sponsorship from Central Sunbelt Federal Credit Union!  After the market, downtown welcomed droves of movie-goers for Downtown Movie Night, a favorite summertime family tradition, produced by Agape Church.

A little hurricane in the forecast couldn’t keep the scarecrows away!  The 2017 Scarecrow Harvest saw doubled participation and an extra helping of excitement leading up to Loblolly Festival!  Downtown Laurel hosted vendors from across the south, artists, crafters and craftsmen plus musicians and food trucks.  Everyone in attendance enjoyed shopping, festival food, and photos with our lovable Loblolly Lumberjack!

In the fall, activities in Laurel abound as do opportunities to shop local.  We were proud to once again serve as the neighborhood champion for Small Business Saturday, and were thrilled to hear from the downtown retailers who experienced record-breaking sales!

Of course, December Downtown is always a magical time; starting with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Pinehurst Park to the annual Sertoma of Laurel Christmas Parade and Kiwanis Pancake Day.  Laurel Little Theatre‘s showing of The Polar Express movie, the YWCA’s  Victorian Christmas Tea and the Charlie Brown Jazz Christmas presentation, added even more family friendly activities .  The merchants of Downtown Laurel celebrated the Christmas season with an evening of shopping and family fun which included cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, crafts at HAND+made, a live nativity in Makers Alley, and trolley rides throughout downtown!

We were pleased to welcome some special guests to Laurel this year, including the film crew from Blue Magnolia Films which produced a video series celebrating Mississippi’s Bicenntenial.  We were thrilled to host The Market Beautiful not once, but TWICE this year! Historic Downtown Laurel also became an official geo-caching sight, and one of Downtown Laurel’s oldest businesses, Lott Furniture Co.,  celebrated their 100th anniversary.

Whew!  What a year!

Looking Forward

We’re bursting with excitement over the promise of 2018.  You can expect more businesses to open, more events, and more efforts to beautify and restore Historic Downtown Laurel!

What is Loblolly Festival?

Celebrating 10 Years Rebuilding Mississippi’s DowntownSaturday October 7, 2017 · 9am ’til 4pm

Loblolly LumberjackThe Loblolly Festival is held annually on the first Saturday in October and celebrates Laurel’s heritage as a sawmill town. Parking and admission are free, so bring the family and get ready for a fun-filled day!

Vendors from several states, artists, crafters and craftsmen set up shop in the streets of downtown Laurel for this one day event.

From mid-morning to late-afternoon musicians and songwriters will display their talents on the Loblolly Stage.

Festival goers will be enticed by the aromas of the food trucks lining Oak Street. Enjoy authentic festival food like funnel cakes, chicken-on-a-stick and award winning barbecue.

You won’t be able to miss the flannel-adorned Laurel Lumberjack who stands nearly a foot taller than all around him.  He quickly draws a crowd and is happy to oblige those requesting photos.

Look on as a talented artist cranks his chainsaw and shapes logs and limbs into beautiful artwork at this favorite festival attraction, funded by a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Teens flock to the Art on Masonite contest, hoping to find the winning ribbon pinned to their own creation.

The Kids’ Zone at the Loblolly Festival grows every year too! There’s something for children of all ages!

Soon, the 2017 Loblolly Festival will be a recent memory, but for now, there is still time to experience the fun and nostalgia as we celebrate our storied past and enjoy our artful, musical, delicious present.

Join us for the 2017 Loblolly Festival in downtown Laurel!

Saturday, October 7th from 9am ’til 4pm

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.