The Laurel Board of Trade is beckoning Mardi Gras to Main Street as the theme of its 34th annual Main Street Festival, scheduled rain or shine on Saturday, May 10.
The event promises a greater variety of arts and crafts, more food choices than in years past and live entertainment on three stages, according to festival chairwoman and LBOT administrator Maureen Rogers.
Kicking the festivities off at Sixth and Main streets at 9 a.m., a parade of more than a thousand marchers and 80 vehicles will represent more than 60 local businesses, community groups, churches and ROTC groups.
Descriptions of the parade participants will be broadcast over loudspeakers at the Quill Lot in the 300 block of Main Street.
Parade organizer Jim Cross said Miss Appalachia's Outstanding Teen, staff of the Marilyn Johnson Sewing Design Studio and Sweet Frog Yogurt employees are scheduled to walk in the parade for the first time.
Local favorites such as the West Laurel Ragtag Band, the Outback Leather ponies, Nestle Dreyers Ice Cream, Extravadance Competitive Dance Company, Laurel Mill Playhouse and the Chick-fil-A cow will also be in the parade.
Rogers said the LBOT will be handing out Mardi Gras beads and is encouraging Main Street merchants to dress to fit the 2014 festival's Mardi Gras theme.
After the parade, live entertainment will begin on three stages: the Quill Lot stage, the A stage at A and Main streets and the B stage at Seventh and Main streets.
James Agbai, known as DJ Aggie, volunteers with Winning in Sports and Education, a nonprofit organization he said is dedicated to bringing "pro-life experiences to youth sports while enriching young minds."
Aggie appeared as the DJ at the Quill Lot stage last year, and said he received great feedback from the LBOT, especially from City Council President Fred Smalls, who has been a strong supporter of WISE.
In the 20 minutes between live performances of gospel, rock, soul, R&B and jazz by A New Life Church, Worship World Group, School of Rock – Columbia and the Gil Artis Project, DJ Aggie will lead line dances such as the cha cha slide, the Cuban shuffle and the wobble.
"I love bringing all people of all ages together through music," he said.
From 3:15 to 4 p.m., DJ Aggie will perform the Quill Lot stage finale.
G. King Productions is also returning to provide live music by 11 bands of various music styles, including rock, reggae and psychedelic folks music, on the other two stages.
Lost N Found, Voodoo Pharmacology, The Solicitors, Freedom Enterprise and Four Hits and a Miss will perform on the A stage; Second Lunchbox, Long Time Coming, Evokatones, The Dirty Jacks, Roll it Over and Dave Gascon will perform at the B stage throughout the day.
More than 300 vendors booths will line Main Street in front of open shops until 4 p.m., when the festival closes.
Food vendors will add international flair, offering diverse flavors such as stuffed grape leaves, Tai noodles, samosas, Nigerian kabobs and spinach stew.
There will also be New Orleans-style food and typical festival fare including crab cakes and fried shrimp, seafood platters, Texas Angus burgers, hot dogs, ribs, blooming onions, steak and cheese subs, corn dogs and turkey legs.
Also in keeping with the Fat Tuesday theme, sweet festival treats like funnel cakes, bubble tea, shaved ice, Italian ice, baklava, honey puffs, Greek yogurts, fried Oreo cookies, candy apples and cotton candy will be on hand.
Arts and crafts vendors will offer kids craft activities such as sand art and face painting; and all sorts of unique handmade items including clothing for women and children; sea grass hats, a large selection of jewelry; Native American musical instruments; stained glass; candles; face scrubs; marionettes, wooden furniture, Mother's Day gift baskets and much more will be for sale.
Pets, except service dogs, will not be permitted on the street or in the vending area.
Skateboards, bicycles or other wheeled vehicles are also prohibited, and the Laurel Police Department will be on hand to enforce the city of Laurel's policies.
Main Street will be closed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to all but pedestrian traffic from Route 1 south to Seventh Street to allow for the upward of 100,000 anticipated attendees.
Television's Fox 5 is planning to broadcast a preview of the festival live on Friday morning, May 9, beginning at 7 a.m. on C Street. Vendors and business will be on hand to represent highlights of the festival.
Tucker Barnes, Holly Morris and Sarah Simmons of Fox will be talking with merchants and others on Main Street throughout the morning.