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 and here are some tips to help you enjoy Loblolly Festival, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned veteran.  The 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 station on West Oak St., and purchase a commemorative Laurel Main Street 10 year anniversary t-shirt or 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.

 

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 are open during the festival and many offer sales, specials, and live music.

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 availableto the community from 10am – 2pm during the Loblolly Festival.  Come in to cool off and enjoy your lunch in the tea room! 

Loblolly: The Power of the Historical Name

If you’ve ever stepped foot in or near Laurel, Mississippi when the pollen is falling in sheets and buckets, then you’ve experienced an integral part of being a true southerner — the love (and hate) of the southern pine tree.

The tall, resilient pine has long been the backdrop of the storied history of Laurel, Mississippi.

The Town That Timber Built

As the Eastmans, Gardiners and Rogers came in from Iowa to settle right here in Jones County it was the tall, swaying, yellow pines surrounded by beautiful, flowering Laurel bushes that inspired them to stay.

Industry – and the livelihoods it provided – was beckoning to their entrepreneurial souls, and soon The Eastman-Gardiner Lumber Co. was founded and Laurel became the yellow pine capital of the world.

The history of Laurel, MS Central Ave in Historical Laurel, MS

 

Like many great innovators before him, John Lindsey watched the progress of the ever-growing lumber town. He recognized a need and created a way to solve it. Soon, The 8-wheeled Lindsey Log Wagon was patented and folks from all over the world came to hear of a little town in South Mississippi.

Next, Laurel Machine & Foundry was created to supply parts for the wagon and William H. Mason invented a process to create a hardboard from the waste provided by the mills, supplying the little piney woods town with more jobs and more opportunities for growth.

The History of Masonite Corporation

Each inspiration, each problem solved was another brick laid in the bustling streets of a town on the rise. Laurel owes its foundation and its very spirit to the yellow Loblolly pine and those who saw ever-present opportunity even as the pollen covered their boots.

Be a #LoblollyLover and join us on Saturday, October 7, 2017 for a celebration of heritage in the town that timber built.

 

Sip and Stroll in Downtown Laurel

In a few short weeks crowds of festival-goers will descend upon downtown Laurel.  Whether you’re venturing out for Laurelpalooza or Loblolly Festival, you’ll definitely want to be in the know about Laurel’s Leisure and Recreation District.  Effective July 1st, the “to-go cup ordinance” allows dining establishments to offer a to-go cup for patrons who wish to finish their beverage outside of the restaurant or bar.

Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Go

  1. Patrons are required to go inside of a restaurant or bar to purchase a beverage.  Leaving the site drink in hand is fine — as long as you stay within the boundaries of the leisure district, which is considered the walkable business district in downtown Laurel.  Maps of the Downtown Leisure/Social District will be available at downtown businesses and restaurants. 
  2. To-go cups are issued at the discretion of individual establishments.  The owner, manager, or bartender has the right to refuse a to-go cup to any individual they believe may be in danger of being over-served.
  3. Only one (non-glass) container will be issued per person over the age of 21 — sorry, no double fisting! 
  4. Please finish your beverage before entering another establishment. 

In 2016, House Bill 1223 was signed into law, which authorized certain municipalities in the state to establish recreation and leisure districts.  Other cities that already have recreation and leisure districts include Gulfport, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Ridgeland, Vicksburg, Natchez, Clinton and Cleveland.

The energy in downtown Laurel is already palpable.  Laurel Main Street looks forward to the continued economic growth in downtown and the rebirth of nightlife in The City Beautiful!

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