By Charlotte Underwood / Staff writer
The 78th annual Laurel County Homecoming Festival is slated to be one of the best yet, according to festival organizers. Scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, the festival will be held at Levi Jackson State Park.
“This year’s event promises to bring more enhancements for our community to enjoy,” said festival organizer Star Robbins.
There will be plenty to choose from at the festival, including lots of musical entertainment.
“Two years ago we brought back some of the music that is truly the roots of the festival, Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel. Each year it has grown and this year the Bluegrass Pavilion’s line up of top notch bluegrass entertainers promises to add even more to the event,” Robbins said. There will be a special concert each night and additional space on others stages for local performers. Performers will include Tidalwave Road from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at the Blue Grass Pavilion. Level Green will play from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Wilderness Road will play from 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the pavilion.
According to organizers, the Sunday Gospel concert has become a crowd favorite, so this year there will be a line up of local and regional groups as well as Mark Bishop.
There will be several changes at this year’s homecoming, including the pageants, as they were approved to be a part of the Miss Kentucky and Miss America organization.
“As our pageant is a closed pageant, this means that Laurel County will have one of our very own girls to represent our home town at the Miss Kentucky pageant. This will also mean that talent is once again a part of the pageant and our Saturday night event will showcase a wide variety of amazing local talent,” Robbins said.
Another change will be the new YOUTH/TEEN alley that is being added this year. Festival organizers said they are building a place within the event for young people to come and enjoy the rich heritage of homecoming. Several local youth groups, individuals, contemporary Christian artists and southern gospel artists are working together to give this new part of the event a great first year kick off.
Last year the first Kentucky’s Got Talent competition was introduced. The show mimics the very popular “America’s Got Talent” TV show where judges give immediate feedback to each contestant.
“This was a huge success last year and proves to offer the same enthusiasm again this year. We have even invited Jimmy Rose, of Pineville, to come by if his ‘America’s Got Talent’ schedule allows him to do so,” Robbins said. This year’s Kentucky’s Got Talent will be Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Amphitheater Stage.
Many local and regional acts will provide entertainment on stages throughout the event this year. The main headliner for Friday night will be Marty Raybon, former lead singer of the group Shenandoah. He will be performing from 9 to 10:15 p.m.
Saturday will be full of events such as a 5K Color Race and Pet parades. Registration for the race begins at 7 a.m. and the race starts at 8 a.m., near the amphitheater. Saturday will also showcase Jeff Sheppard’s corn hole tournament, as well as a Civil War re-enactment and a host of other kid and family events. The Civil War Reenactment will take place on Saturday at 2 p.m., at the Amphitheater Main Stage. The London Jazz Orchestra will also be performing on Saturday from 7 to 8 p.m.
“We have also added corn hole tournaments during the evening hours on Friday and Saturday night to give guests another opportunity to come out and enjoy each other’s company and the festival,” Robbins said.
Vendors and crafts will be set up around shelter house two. Still in the works for the festival are volleyball, archery and other family and kid activities to “promote healthy choices for the community.”
There will also be a special new section this year for all pet lovers with a great variety of pet services and educational support during the festival, according to festival organizers who said they are excited to introduce the first annual “Bark in the Park.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity to spread the word about the needy animals of Laurel and surrounding counties. As well as add some publicity to your organization and what services you provide. We’re expecting a large turnout of pets and owners for this awesome event,” said organizer Lana Smith.
There will be pet apparel, pet treats and snacks, a rabies clinic, pet parades, mobile adoptions, raffles and even a pet masseuse on site.
Animal related vendors, shelters, rescues and anyone offering pet services are invited and encouraged to attend this event. Rescues and shelters may also have mobile adoptions and all booths are encouraged sponsor their own mini-event to fund raise and create awareness of their cause. Should anyone wish to get involved and help out the members of the pet community, booth rentals are $25 per day with all four days not required.
“We are very excited about this new addition to the festival. Every pet that brings their owner will receive a ‘best pet’ bow tie as a thank you gift, while supplies last. If interested in becoming involved in this first time event, please contact festival organizers,” Smith said. Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated.
Another new feature at this year’s festival will be the Flying Houndz Frizbee Trick Dog Show. Animals from the show have been featured on the “Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” at NCAA, NBA, and other professional sport half time shows and at many events and festivals across the country, according to organizers.
And it wouldn’t be homecoming without the Sunday Honoree’s Banquet at the Levi Jackson State Club House at 12:30 p.m. The banquet will celebrate and pay special tribute to some of the area’s local businesses and individuals who have made a difference in the community. Everyone is welcome to attend the luncheon at a nominal cost for lunch. This year’s banquet will honor two individuals, as well as a local business. The honorees are Shirley McCowan, who is a long-time volunteer with the local historical society, Dr. Georgia B. Miller, educator and businesswoman and the family-owned business of Benge Farm Supply, which is celebrating its 75th year in operation.
There are lots of other things that will make the festival a memorable experience for those who attend, according to organizers.
“Many other things make this festival special, from free train rides to the living Civil War museum and the kid carnival tent, there are too many to list them all,” Robbins said, adding that the festival’s success was a group effort each year.
“It takes all of us to make this event special. The Laurel County Homecoming event is a unique type of gathering. It is the one event we have which celebrates the rich heritage of our community, our people and our businesses. We have brought in hundreds of chairs and created seating areas for folks to come and relax and enjoy meeting new friends and catching up with old friends,” Robbins said.
Admission to the festival is free. For more information including a complete list of events and entertainers, visit www.laurelcountyhomecoming.com or call 606-878-2775.
By Charlotte Underwood / Staff writer
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