Rescheduled Laurel Hill Arts Festival returning bigger than before

New artists, entertainment join line-up

Brian Hughes | Special to the News Bulletin/USA TODAY NETWORK

LAUREL HILL — A rainy April 24 brought disappointment to artists, performers, food vendors and attendees when the Laurel Hill Arts and Heritage Festival was reluctantly cancelled, but when rescheduled to Saturday, June 5, the 10th annual festival garnered more exhibitors than the original.

Attendees stroll past local artists’ and crafters’ booths at a previous Laurel Hill Arts and Heritage Festival. After its April rainout, this year’s festival is June 5.
Live music at this year’s Laurel Hill Arts and Heritage Festival includes the North Okaloosa and the Emerald Coast Community Bands.

“We are just delighted,” said the Rev. Mark Broadhead, pastor of the festival’s host, Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church. “There was a lot of disappointment in the community and in the church when we had to cancel, but obviously someone upstairs had bigger plans for us!”

What one attendee from Pensacola once called “the perfect small-town community festival” runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 5, on the grounds of Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church, 8115 Fourth St. Ample parking is available just down the street the Laurel Hill School’s track at the corner of Fourth Street and Park Place.

Festival offerings

Two scouts from Boy Scout Troop 773 prepare to lift a Dutch oven of famed Scout Cobbler off a rack. The troop will prepare the popular treat, which is cooked over hot coals, again at this year’s Laurel Hill Arts & Heritage Festival.
The Crestview Police Department K9 Division will present demonstrations of the unit’s capabilities, plus opportunities to meet and pet the four-legged officers.

Held on the spacious grounds of the historic 1902 church in Okaloosa County’s northernmost municipality, the annual spring festival is a showcase of regional arts, crafts, history, traditions, food and music.

Well, perhaps not all of the food is traditional to the close-knit rural community. One of the highlights on the food vendors’ menu is homemade lumpia, the crispy eggrolls that are traditional to the Philippines, accompanied by pancit, a mouthwatering Filipino noodle stir fry.

Perhaps more recognizable to home-grown palates will be the smoked Boston butts yielding pulled pork sandwiches prepared onsite by Mark McCallum of Two Cousins BB; and hot dogs and Scout Cobbler cooked by the guys of Crestview Boy Scout Troop 773. The church will also offer baked goods for dessert, with proceeds going to local north county missions.

Arts and crafts of many types, plus cottage foods like jams, jellies and relishes, will be displayed and available for purchase at the June 5 Laurel Hill Arts and Heritage Festival.

Artists and crafters display paintings, crafts made of native materials including driftwood, furniture, photography, polymer sculptures, jewelry, and cottage industry foods likes jams, jellies and relishes.

New to the festival are snap-together components for toys and decorations that are 3D printed by a Davidson Middle School student. Many of the diverse works are available for purchase.

One of the big beneficiaries of sales is the Laurel Hill Little Free Library and its children’s component, the Little Readers Free Library, a volunteer project of residents Janet Twitty and Tracy Curenton.

Mark Curenton, Tracy's brother, is an avid woodworker. He crafted the two libraries and the nearby free food pantry that stand in front of Laurel Hill City Hall.

A substantial book and movie sale will provide needed funds to refurbish the library boxes, from which residents may take and contribute books and nonperishable foods as they wish. Donors have continued to provide more “gently enjoyed” books and DVDs well after the original April festival date.

“We’ve got some really great books and movies of all kinds and for all ages,” Tracy Curenton said. “One of our DVD donors was obviously a fan of 1960s British TV adventures. In addition, we received six boxes of excellent hard-cover books in near perfect shape from a former Laurel Hill neighbor who now lives in North Carolina.”

Live music starts with the 50-piece North Okaloosa Community Band, which kicks off the festival at 11 a.m. Emerald Coast Pipes and Drums, a traditional bagpipe band and perennial performer at the festival, is joined by members of the Santa Rosa Pipes and Drums, skirling the tunes the warmed the hearts of many a Scotsman.

The afternoon concludes with the Emerald Coast Community Band, which joins the festival for the first time. Like their North Okaloosa friends, its members will bring the lively sounds of symphonic, jazz, swing and concert band music to Laurel Hill.

In between, members of the Crestview Police Department’s K9 Division will offer the opportunity to meet and pet four-legged police officers and see demonstrations of their tracking, narcotic intervention and, most exciting of all, apprehension acumen.

For the latter, one of the officers dons a “bite suit.” Despite his suit’s thick padding, the officer portraying a bad guy still feels the dogs’ bite, which is around 230 pounds per square inch.

Among culture and heritage groups at the event are the Baker Block Museum and North Okaloosa Heritage Association; the Crestview Area Sister City Program, which partners with Noirmoutier, France; and members of the Walton Guard, a group of Civil War re-enactors.