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.

 

The Market Beautiful is Coming to The City Beautiful!

Attention shoppers: this is something you won’t want to miss!  The Market Beautiful is bringing their award-winning show to town!  Over 80 vendors, both local and out-of-state, will line Front Street this weekend with fabulous vintage finds and handmade merchandise.  Local stores and merchants will be open as well, and some will even extend their store hours.

The Market Beautiful started in a garage in 2010 with 5 vendors and has grown to shows in 5 states with over 100 vendors and 5,000 attendees on average at each show. This marks their first show in the south and we can’t wait to shower them with our southern hospitality!  Jana Roach and Vanessa Pleasants work full-time to bring an amazing and unique experience to customers, along with the most wonderfully curated vintage finds! In between markets, Jana and Vanessa run their blog and manage their online community via Instagram which has grown to nearly 100,000 dedicated and engaged followers.  Jana and Vanessa carefully select and curate vendors for each show to ensure shoppers are treated to the very best of the best.  Many vendors travel with them because of the success they’ve seen. They truly care about their vendors and customers alike, as well as keeping the show fresh, exciting, and unique!

There will be something for everyone at The Market Beautiful.  Enjoy live music from Tasche De La Rocha, food trucks and sweet/cold treats, coffee, and free kids activities.  Laurel’s own Clairmont & Company will have a kids craft area and Six Point Furniture will present a workshop.  Erin and Ben Napier, hosts of HGTV’s Home Town, will help kick off the inaugural market with a meet and greet too.  The Market Beautiful also offers prizes for the first 50 in line and a lot more!

The Market Beautiful (formerly Vintage Whites) has been named one of the top 4 markets in the United States and voted a top 5 not-to-miss market by Country Living Magazine!

Enjoy the market on Friday night, June 9th for early shopping night. Early shopping tickets are $25 and include a free drink and admission for Saturday! Early shopping night is a more leisurely shopping experience and you get first pick at the merchandise!  Vendors restock on Saturday morning and gates open at 10 AM for general admission. The market goes until 5 PM and is free for kids 12 and under! 

Top 10 Reasons to be a Tourist in Your Hometown This Summer

Summer is universally known as THE season to travel.  I’ll never understand why traveling while it’s hot as the surface of the sun outside is so appealing, but my family (along with millions of others) does it every year.  It’s expected.  It’s tradition.  We want to make memories and share experiences with those we love, so we research, plan, load up the minivan and hit the road.  There’s a joy and excitement that comes with traveling some place new and discovering something for the first time.  There’s also that wonderful familiarity that comes from returning to the same beach town and restaurants that you’ve frequented for years.

But what if you flip the script this year?  What if you combine the excitement of discovery with the comfort and familiarity of being in your own town?  There are so many new and wonderful things to discover in Laurel, and so many things you may have forgotten all about.  The slower pace of summertime provides the perfect opportunity to be a tourist in your own hometown.  

I don’t know about you, but when I plan a trip, I think about three things: eating, activities, and shopping.  Laurel has all three of these things in a compact and walkable downtown area!

10. Home Town Sightings

In case you haven’t heard, Home Town, the hit show on HGTV that focuses on restoring old homes and welcoming new families to town, has been renewed for a second season!  Although the exact filming schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, you can always spot the hosts of the show, Erin and Ben Napier around town.  Closer to the end of summer, you’ll probably find the film crew too.  If you don’t have any star sightings, you’re sure to notice some of the homes from the first season of the show and get some inspiration for your own home!

Ben & Erin Napier of HGTV's Home Town in the Laurel, MS historic district

Ben & Erin Napier of HGTV’s Home Town in the Laurel, MS historic district / Photo by Bethany Byrd

9. Laurel’s Only Craft Brewery

If you’re looking to kick back and enjoy a cold one in a place with awesome atmosphere, look no further than Slowboat Brewing Company.  Take a tour of the brewery and see what it takes to make some of the best beer you’ve ever tasted.  Slowboat also hosts regular trivia nights and live music acts that you won’t see anywhere else.  Saturday afternoons at Slowboat are completely family friendly with board games, giant Jenga, and food trucks to satisfy everyone. Guided tours begin at the top of every hour. Tours include six 6 oz of samples of Slowboat beer. Children, designated drivers, and pets are welcome and tour for free.  

8. Public Parks that Pack a Punch (of history, that is)

After sampling local craft beer at Slowboat Brewing Company, you might want a nice place to sit and take in the scenery.  Gardiner Park and Mason Park are the perfect spots for this.  In the early 1900s, Laurel was experiencing rapid growth.  The amazing mansions that line 5th Avenue today were brand new and the City Beautiful philosophy had taken hold.  Mrs. Catherine Gardiner, decided that the cutover lands that her husband’s timber business had left behind would be the perfect place for public parks.  As a wealthy and well-travelled woman, she insisted on hiring only the best architects she could find.  She engaged the firm of Fredrick Olmsted, known as the “father of American Architecture” to design a city parkway system for tiny Laurel.  He had already designed New York City’s Central Park and the grounds surrounding the U.S. Capitol so Mrs. Gardiner believed he was just the person to bring her vision to life.  As a result, Laurel was soon declared by the National Recreation Association as having the best park system of any small town in America.  Laurel’s public parks are well-preserved, serene and beautiful places to enjoy an afternoon with family and friends.

Gardiner Park

 

7. Arts & Culture

Laurel has always been an epicenter for arts and culture.  Every elementary school child in Jones County takes a field trip to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art** to see the Native American basket collection, but did you know that this museum also hosts some of the world’s finest traveling art exhibits too?  Who needs to travel to a large city and go to a crowded museum when you can visit your local museum for FREE?  LRMA is also the host to Free Family Art Days, summer art camps, and even art classes for adults.  Check their website or call for a complete schedule of summer events and special exhibits.

Lauren Rogers Museum of Art

The Laurel Little Theatre** recently brought back the roaring 20s when they celebrated the 90th anniversary of the grand opening of the Arabian Theatre.  Not only does the Arabian Theatre boast amazing architecture, but it hosts amazing performances as well.  I spent countless summers of my childhood involved with the Laurel Little Theatre and will never forget the sense of pride and accomplishment when we finally got to perform for a live audience after weeks of rehearsal.  Those who attended performances at LLT also made an indelible mark on those of us who performed.  It showed us that we were not an isolated community of small-town actors, but that we were part of a community who supported our big-time dreams.  This summer, LLT will host its annual Kids’ Camp, which will culminate in the performance of Disney’s The Lion King Jr.  In August, LLT will kick off their 57th season with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a high-energy musical spectacular that has been a favorite of theatre goers for decades. 

The Arabian Theatre

6. Central Sunbelt Summer Series

The Downtown Laurel Farmer’s Market** and Downtown Movie Night are some of the most anticipated summer events in Laurel.  The Farmer’s Market is held at The Brickyard in Downtown Laurel each Thursday in June from 3:30 – 7:00 p.m.  Farmers, home cooks, and artisans come from all over Mississippi to bring you homegrown produce and handmade goodies.  Fresh bread, heirloom tomatoes and fresh squeezed blueberry lemonade are always local favorites.  Plus, admission to the Farmer’s Market and Downtown Movie Night is FREE.  

After the Downtown Farmer’s Market winds down, meander over to The Backlot for Movie Night.  Bring your lawn chairs and picnic blankets to enjoy a movie under the stars with a hundred or so of your neighbors!  Family-friendly films such as “Finding Nemo” are shown each week on a giant outdoor movie screen.  Food and drinks are available for purchase or you can bring your own and enjoy a picnic under the stars!  Movies start at 8 p.m. 

4. The Market Beautiful

The Market Beautiful is coming to The City Beautiful June 9th-10th!  Formerly known as The Vintage Whites Market, this one-of-a-kind show offers live music, great food, fun family activities, vintage-inspired and trend-setting artisans, but most of all, FABULOUS VINTAGE FINDS!  The owners and organizers of The Market Beautiful host vintage markets across the United States and have been ranked among the Top 4 markets to visit by Romantic Homes & Flea Market Style!  The vendors chosen for The Market Beautiful specialize in repurposed furniture, architectural salvage, industrial pieces, primitives, antiques and other vintage items.  You’re bound to find something here that you can’t live without.  Tickets are on sale now! 

3. Speaking of Shopping…

Hello, my name is Carrie and I’m a shopaholic.  I enjoy shopping for anything, for anyone, at anytime.  A LOT has changed in Laurel since the inception of Laurel Main Street 10 years ago.  One of the biggest changes has to be the shopping and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  Gone are the days of driving to Hattiesburg (or further!) just to find a dress for Easter Sunday, or a baby gift for your neighbor.  There haven’t been this many unique and thoughtful shops in downtown since I’ve been alive and I just want to go inside each one and high five all the brave business owners.  If I were to write a little something about each and every shop in downtown, it would be enough for a book, so I’m just going to list them below.  Trust me, there is something for everyone. 

Places to Shop:

7th StyleAdam Trest HomeFine Art by Amy LukerBaptist Bible & Book House | Bella BellaCloset CandyElegant Evenings | Guild & Gentry* | Goodness Gracious | HAND+made by Clairmont&Co.* | J. Parker ReclaimedJack & Jill Children’s ConsignmentThe Laurel LeafLaurel Mercantile Co.The Loblolly BoutiqueLott Furniture Co.Misty’sMolly Renee’s New LookOffice Products CenterPatina’sPeddler’s JunktionQuarter Century** | Six Point Furniture | The Paper Studio | The Rusty Chandelier** | Southern Antiques** | Woodcut Funhouse

3. Dining

My other favorite thing is eating.  I plan every trip I take around the food, and a “trip” in my hometown is no exception. When you’re on vacation, you try to cook as little as possible, right?  When you’re on a STAY-cation, the same rules apply.  Laurel itself has plenty of restaurants to choose from, but we’re going to focus on downtown.

Did you know you can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in 1/4 of a mile?  You can literally eat your way through downtown if that’s your thing.  Whether you want a sit-down dinner, food truck fare, a casual lunch, or specialty coffee and breakfast, you’re in luck. 

Places to Eat:

BackRoad BistroCafé La FleurLee’s Coffee & TeaThe Knight ButcherThe LoftThe Pearl Diner* | Phillip’s Drive-In (P.D.I.)Sweet Somethings Bakery

2. Horse Drawn Carriage Rides Downtown

What do you do when you go to New Orleans for the first time?  Catch a ride in a horse drawn carriage of course!  New York City?  Horse drawn carriage.  Laurel, Mississippi?  HORSE. DRAWN. CARRIAGE.  Sweet Somethings Bakery and Sweet Somethings Bed & Breakfast now offer rides in a carriage fit for a Disney princess.  Could you imagine a more magical and romantic thing than riding in a horse drawn carriage under the lights of downtown?  We didn’t think so.  Guys, if you’re looking to wow your sweetheart or (gasp!) PROPOSE, this would be the way to go.  You won’t find them hanging out on the street corner though, so be sure to call well in advance to make your plans.

1. Lauren Rogers Museum of Art Blues Bash

On June 2nd, The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art** will host their 24th Annual Blues Bash on the front lawn of the museum.  The music is always top notch, as is the barbecue!  Everyone sets up picnic blankets and lawn chairs, and the crowd spills out onto picturesque Fifth Avenue and the lawns and porches of neighboring houses.  You’ll see everyone you know and some people you forgot you knew.  The Blues Bash provides an atmosphere that could even rival that of The Grove on gameday.  Yes, I said it.  Blues + Barbecue = Summertime Perfection.  Advance tickets are available at the museum and online or you can buy them the day of the bash.

LRMA Blues Bash

 

Put on your walking shoes and leave your luggage at home!  Look at your hometown through the eyes of a tourist and you’ll be surprised what you see.

 

*Business opening soon!

**Best of Mississippi/M-List Award Recipient 2016

Legacy & Leadership: Misty’s The House of Style

When I was in high school, I was Jones County’s Jr. Miss, and I was invited to every ribbon cutting and ground breaking ceremony in the county.  One of my favorite events to attend was the ribbon cutting for Misty’s The House of Style.  I remember watching the construction of the store with my youth group from our Sunday night hangout, McAlister’s Deli, next door.  The instant I walked into Misty’s store, I knew I was some place special.  Not only were there beautiful clothes and creative store displays everywhere I turned, but there was such a warm and welcoming atmosphere too.  Five years later, I was preparing for the Miss Mississippi pageant and Misty helped me find the perfect outfits and accessories for arrivals and autographs parties. And in 2006, when I got married, Misty’s came to my rescue once again. Hers was the only store in town that carried Spanx at the time, and I can honestly say, there would not have been a wedding without them.

Anytime I’ve shopped at Misty’s I left her store feeling more confident than when I arrived.  It takes a special person to make others feel that way. Her demeanor has permeated her staff as well, making Misty’s a true shopping destination.

Read our interview below and you’ll see just why Misty Foster is a leader in our community and her brand leaves a legacy for other retail stores to aspire to.

What is Misty’s?

Misty’s is an upscale women’s clothing store.  Here at Misty’s, we pride ourselves on our dedication to our clients by offering the utmost customer service.  It’s known that we go the extra mile for all of our customers.  Not only do we sell good quality clothing, but we also offer in-store alterations on items purchased here.  You will never purchase a gift here and be charged for gift wrapping.  When shopping at Misty’s, you can always count on a friendly smile and a hug around the neck.

How did Misty’s begin?

As a young girl, I always envisioned myself as a dentist, which is totally crazy because I’m very fearful of having dental work done. While in college at The University of Southern Mississippi, I changed my major from science to fashion merchandising and marketing. While in college, I worked in several retail stores and loved it. After I graduated from college, I was hired by Mrs. Joy Roberts to work at her store, Roberts, in the North Laurel Shopping Center. I had the best experience working for her and meeting so many ladies that I had not known prior to this job. Although I loved my job, I felt like I had a calling to open my own business. And the rest is history!

How did your store come to be in its current location. Is this a structure that has been repurposed or a new building?

As I began the challenge of opening a store, it was also a challenge finding the right place.  My mom and I looked and looked at so many buildings in downtown Laurel and surrounding areas but decided that a free standing building was the way for us to go.  We purchased the lot next door to McAlister’s Deli and have been happy with our location. It’s the gateway to our new and wonderful downtown Laurel with a lot of traffic. We have two entrances that make it easier for our customers to access the store, and a big parking lot.

How do you think Misty’s will be different five years from now?

Laurel is a wonderful small town with the friendliest people, who are open to change and making our town better. With our new HGTV series, Home Town, we look forward to many new people visiting and settling down in our area.  This is nothing but good news for our locally owned businesses and our economy. In five years, I expect great things for not only Misty’s, but our entire town.

 

Who do you think needs to hear your story and why?

Everyone has a dream in life. My wish and prayer everyday is to help someone feel good about themselves. I want my customers to feel loved and appreciated every time they walk through my door. It’s important for my shoppers to know that they are my first priority. If you are looking for great customer service and something special that you don’t see everywhere, then Misty’s is the place to shop. If we don’t have what you are looking for, we will point you in the direction of another wonderful locally owed store.

 

What is your best advice for those looking to participate in the growth, revitalization, and restoration of Downtown Laurel?

I would first start by joining the Laurel Main Street organization. Being a part of this organization means that you are dedicated to making Laurel a better place to live. They have so many people who have put their heart and soul into making a better downtown. All it takes is one phone call to get involved in the many projects and events throughout the year.