Whether they came for the food, for friends, or just a day in the sun, this weekend’s Laurel Fest celebration drew attendees in the thousands.
Laurel Fest was held for the 11th year at the Laurel Hill Recreation Center, still bringing many local residents out for their first visit, like Laurel Hill native James Davis, who summed up the festivities as “pretty good.”
“This is the first time I’ve been in a couple of years,” said Annie Smith of Laurel Hill. “It’s always good — eating somebody else’s cooking.”
This year’s Laurel Fest kicked off on Friday afternoon with a gospel concert, with live country, 1950s, and classic rock music throughout the day on Saturday. Amidst vendors offering food and crafts from jewelry and handbags to gumball machines and bird houses, exclamations of surprise were heard as locals encountered and caught up with old friends and as natives returned home to see old sights.
“I hadn’t been out here since I was in the first grade, and it’s been 55 years and I was trying to figure out where my classroom was,” said Stacey Oxendine of Clio, S.C. “It looked a whole lot bigger to me back then.”
Scotland High School’s marching band took advantage of the Laurel Fest atmosphere to raise over $1,700 for a competition trip to Florida later this year. The success of the band’s hot dog stand was spurred in part by Director of Bands Britton Goodwin’s promise to shave his beard if they raised $1,000, and to shave his head if they made it to $1,500.
By midday Saturday, Goodwin’s beard was history, and he and WLNC’s Dave Wells both had their heads shaved on Monday morning.
“It’s for a good cause and it grows back fast,” he said.
Young children were kept entertained by a bounce house and rock climbing wall, as well as playground facilities.
“We’ve lived here all our lives and this is our first year coming,” said Jessica McEntire, attending Laurel Fest with her husband and two young sons. “We assumed it would be sort of like the John Blue Festival, and it’s a good time. I didn’t expect we’d walk in and not have a charge, so that was nice just to be able to enjoy ourselves.”
The fifth Little Miss Laurel Fest pageant saw four-year-old Kinsley Norton named Wee Miss Laurel Fest and eight-year-old Emma Seals taking home Little Miss Laurel Fest honors.
“It was a lovely pageant, just some cute, gorgeous young ladies and I think they all had a good time,” said organizer Nancy Shelley. “We don’t ask parents to go out and spend a lot of money - this year was farm themed. It has been very competitive, but in a nice way.”
Scotland County natives Jeremiah Moore and Alex Quick, both students at UNC-Pembroke, spent the day at Laurel Fest to help wind down at the end of their school year.
“Living in Laurel Hill, I just come and check it out every year,” Moore said. “It’s better than sitting at home.”
“I love coming for the food - that’s what reminds me of being here at home,” added Quick. “Not being at school, this is what home is.”