Founded a decade ago to bring the people of Laurel Hill together for a weekend of family-friendly entertainment, the Laurel Fest has stayed true to its original mission, say organizers.
“We wanted a festival that would attract families to come out and share in fellowship and to have fun, all while giving glory to God for what he has given us,” said Laurel Fest planning board member Connie Coleman, ahead of this weekend’s 11th annual Laurel Fest. “That’s been what Laurel Fest was about from day one and it is still what it’s about now.”
That first year attracted as many as 10,000 people to the grounds of the Laurel Hill Recreation Center — more than Coleman (or anyone else) could have imagined at the time. As the years have passed, the event has added attractions and vendors and its reputation has spread throughout the state.
“It’s something Laurel Hill can be proud of,” Coleman said. “And we are very proud to have planned it.”
Coleman said that for many in the community, Laurel Fest has become one of the few opportunities to see old friends in a social setting.
“It’s like a big family reunion, where you get to see people you only maybe see once a year. You see classmates or people that used to live here and moved away, or people who’ve been too busy or maybe who you haven’t had time to see. It’s a good chance to catch up and socialize.”
Starting on Friday at noon, this year’s Laurel Fest has not tinkered with the formula that has been such a hit with attendees in the past.
There will be a Friday evening gospel concert beginning at 5 p.m., and starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday there will be a full day of family entertainment, including some very popular celebrity look-a-likes.
“We will have the ‘One Man Band’ and the Elvis impersonator is back, and of course the Tim McGraw impersonator is back — he seems to be so popular that everybody wants to have him back,” Coleman said.
Among the other reliable attractions expected this year are dance teams, more gospel music and the ever-popular “Little Miss Laurel Fest” pageant.
“There’s been one change to that,” Coleman said. “We’ve added a ‘Little Mister’ contest to go along with it.”
Open to children aged 4-12, the two contests invite youngsters to go on stage and compete in three different age groups.
Another new opportunity for children this year is a fingerprint identification station. The vendor “Kids Printz ID” will offer finger print/photo IDs for children.
“They’ll be there to fingerprint children and take their picture as a safety measure to help in case of tragedy,” Coleman said.
“There will also be inflatable attractions, a rock climbing wall, face painting and games for the children.”
For adults and kids, one of the most talked about attractions isn’t something presented on stage during the festival.
“Many people come just for the food,” Coleman noted.
Tops among the returning vendors, according to feedback from attendees, is the “chicken and pastry” vendor as well as “Shirley’s Goodies,” a vendor which brings collards-themed cuisine to the festival grounds.
With a gloomy, cool start to May, Coleman said that organizers are expecting this year’s Laurel Fest to serve as a sunny welcome to the warm months.
“I think we’re going to have a good turnout. It’s going to be warm. It’s going to be sunny. And people are going to want to get out of their house after the cold weather and have some fun.”
Dozens of volunteers are expected to participate in producing this weekend’s festival, but more are still needed for this and future festivals, according to Coleman.
“As the festival gets older, we are all getting older too,” said Coleman of those involved in the festival’s planning from the beginning. “We need some new blood to keep it going. We’d like to get some new people involved.”
Those interested in learning more about Laurel Fest 2013 or in volunteering should call Coleman at 462-2424.
Laurel Fest will begin this Friday at noon and continues until 8 p.m. Festivities will resume on Saturday at 9 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m.
Laurinburg Exchange|Civitas Media