This year’s Laurel Fest, held in honor of the county’s service organizations, attracted more than 1,000 people to the site of the Old Laurel Hill School this past weekend for the 10th edition of the event.
Local service organizations were invited by festival organizers to set up booths at the festival, and a number chose to do so, including the Scotland County Red Cross, which distributed informational material and collected donations at the festival.
“I thought it was a really good idea (to recognize service organizations), and it’s not something I remember having done in the past,” said Carol Ann Lentz of the local Red Cross.
“This is a good time for us all to come together as a community and to let everyone know the resources we have available,” added Lentz, who was first approached about participating in the festival “several months ago.”
Also in attendance were representatives of the area Coast Guard Auxiliary who used the opportunity Laurel Fest offered to provide patrons with some timely information about boating safety.
“This is absolutely the best time to be providing this information, with the weather becoming warm and people heading out onto the water” said Thomas Zydor, who manned the auxiliary’s booth on Saturday.
One of the more popular festival booths was set up by representatives of the Scotland County Humane Society, who brought two adoptable dogs to the event.
“Cora” and “Kady”, both spayed young-adult dogs, attracted the attention of one of Laurel Fest’s youngest patrons, the not-yet one-year old Rylan Skipper, who sat for a few minutes in awe of the dogs in the arms of his father, William Skipper.
“The festival has really been great,” said the senior Skipper, who serves as the chief of the Laurel Hill Fire Department.
“We’ve been out here all day listening to music and eating some good fresh fish from one of the vendors,” commented Skipper.
“The Laurel Fest represents a great opportunity for us to spread our message and to let people know that there are wonderful animals like these available for adoption,” noted Kathy Murphy of the Humane Society.
The festival kicked off on Friday evening with a “Gather-like Homecoming Event” that included gospel singing on the large festival stage, and continued at 9 a.m. Saturday morning with an opening prayer by a local minister.
Included in the opening ceremony was a moment of special recognition for the attending service organizations.
“There is nothing more important that we can do than recognize the important role of these organizations,” said festival planner Charlie Fipps.
“And the goal is not only to give thanks but to also allow the organizations to spread their message,” Fipps added.
Festival entertainment continued throughout the day on Saturday, beginning with Pete Yow, “The One Man Band” and ending at 4:30 p.m. with the South Ridge Bluegrass group.
In-between were acts as diverse as Elvis tribute act George Hudson and the athletic dancing performances of local troupe “Glamour Athletics.”
Along with all of the music and dancing was a returning festival staple.
Laurel Fest’s annual “Little Miss Laurel Fest” competition saw a number of local young ladies, ranging from five to pre-teen, take to the festival stage to be judged on “poise, appearance, personality and their costume”.
“They were all very cheerful, if a little quiet,” said contest organizer Shelia Swift.
Contestants were encouraged to wear Western themed attire and their biggest smiles as they were asked questions about their favorite pastimes and foods (the most popular response being “fried chicken”).
Winning the “Wee Miss Laurel Fest” competition was natalee Cheyanne Frizzell, with Raylee Baxley finishing runner-up to Emily Campbell Tyler for “Jr. Miss Laurel Fest” honors.
Kinsley-Raye Johns was crowned “Miss Laure Fest” ahead of runner-up Taylor Presnell.
The festival stage was not the only popular Laurel Fest attraction, as there were dozens of food vendors with all manner of fried and baked goods on offer.
James Roudy of Laurinburg brought his cooker to what he called “an exciting local event” and provided hot dogs and large turkey legs to festival-goers.
“The turkey legs sell themselves,” said Roudy of the item’s popularity.