It will not be all fun and games at Laurel Fest — although there will be plenty of both — as the May 11 and 12 event will be held with the goal of “giving thanks” to the service organizations operating in Scotland County.
“There is nothing more important in the community than our service organizations and their volunteers, and we want to thank them for what they’ve done at this year’s Laurel Fest,” said festival planner Charlie Fipps.
As part of the appreciative effort, area service organizations were invited to set up booths to use as they see fit at this year’s festival, the 10th in its history.
First held in 2002, Laurel Fest is tasked with “promoting Laurel Hill as a place to stay and live,” noted planning committee member Bob Wagner.
“Since then it has become very popular in the community,” Wagner added, saying that people often approach him in the community asking about the festival.
“They come from all around to attend, from as far as Georgia and Tennessee,” Wagner said.
It was just last year that the festival first chose to officially recognize community servants as part of the festivities, when the event was held to honor the men and women of the American armed services.
“We chose to honor service organizations this year not only to give thanks, but also to educate locals about what they offer,” said Fipps.
“A lot of time people don’t know who to ask when they need help, and we think this will help them realize that they have options.”
Fipps went on to praise organizations like the Red Cross and Hospice, among others, for “filling a service gap” in the community.
While the theme may have changed, the core of the festival, which according to organizers continues to grow in popularity, will remain the same this year.
Friday’s portion of Laurel Fest will include crafts and food from 12 until 8 p.m., as well as gospel singing from 5 to 8 p.m.
“We have a somewhat religious themed day on Friday, which families really seem to enjoy,” said Wagner.
On Saturday the festival is kicked off in earnest, with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. followed by the honoring of attending service organizations at 9:30 a.m.
From there the fourth annual “Little Miss Laurel Fest” pageant will be held at 11 a.m.
Started by planning committee member Geri Mallard, the competition is designed to “bring the people together of our tiny town for something positive,” she said.
“The contest has grown every year, and enrollment has been especially good this year,” said Mallard, who invites those interested in competing to call 706-830-6469 or to seek out applications, which are being stocked at various local businesses.
There will also be a youth talent competition during the festival, Mallard said.
With more than 60 vendors committed to attend, Fipps joked that there will be no shortage of food and crafts at this year’s festival.
“We have everything from hot dogs, to blooming onions, to funnel cakes, BBQ ribs, burgers, fries, sweet potato fries, collard sandwiches and just about any and everything else you can think of,” said Fipps, who said that he is most looking forward to sampling the product of the popular bloomin’ onion vendor that will be on hand.
There will be a similarly wide variety of entertainment choices available to festival-goers, from regional storyteller Tyris D. Jones to Tim McGraw “tribute artist” Tim Hair.
“They absolutely love him,” said Fipps of Hair. “He’s back for the third time this year.”
Also taking the festival stage this year will be the “one man band,” Pete Yow, the Southridge Bluegrass band and George Hudson, who will be appearing as Elvis Presley.
Fipps suspects that the festival’s broad appeal is why it has made it to its 10 anniversary, with no signs of stopping.
“This festival has a flair for everyone, and we look forward to continuing it in the future.”