It was supposed to be a year of celebration in the city of Laurel. Parades, concerts, talks and a gala were planned throughout the year in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary on April 4. And, with the Fourth of July falling on a Saturday, the city would also be celebrating on the actual date instead of the first Saturday.
Instead, it has been a year of cancellations and unknowns as the coronavirus pandemic brought things to a halt in the city and across the country.
On Friday, the 150th Executive Committee, along with Mayor Craig Moe, announced all 150th anniversary events through August were canceled.
“In mid-August, we will get back together and see what events we are able to do,” said Moe, though he suspects more things will be canceled.
“They did a great job planning a year-long event,” Moe said of the committee. “Some of these events we will shift to next year.”
As a result of the cancellations, it was decided to cancel the 150th passport program, which encouraged participants to attend events to receive stamps with the possibility of winning a prize at the end of the year.
“We had 36 events planned and only sneaked in three of them before COVID,” said Audrey Barnes, director of communications for the city and marketing director for the anniversary committee. “It is disappointing. We had been meeting for a year to plan this year-long celebration for Laurel."
With the program suspended, the passport books might become collectible items, Barnes said.
“They have so much Laurel history in them,” Barnes said. “We’re not giving anything away. We’re holding hope for next year.”
The Laurel Fourth of July committee also announced Friday that the city’s Independence Day celebration and fireworks show were canceled.
“We were one of last ones to cancel. I knew it was going to be close,” Moe said. “There is no way we can have large crowds.”
This is the first time in the 42 years the city has hosted a Fourth of July celebration that it is has been canceled for reasons outside of weather.
“We had some big plans with the 150th anniversary and Fourth of July being on Fourth of July this year,” said Carreen Koubek, chairperson of the committee. “It was a big disappointment for us, but we want to make sure the community stays safe.”
Funds from this year will be saved for next year, Koubek said, adding that donations were always needed, too.
“We will probably still do what we were planning for the 150th. Laurel has come a long way, especially this year 2020, oh my goodness,” Koubek said. “We definitely want to do something bigger and better next year.”
Barnes is hoping by April 4, 2021, the city’s actual incorporation date, that everyone will be able to celebrate together, unlike this year, when the community rallied together by displaying signs in their yards recognizing the milestone.
“It was neat to see people wanted to participate and did. We were able to mark the anniversary,” Barnes said. “Wouldn’t it be great to do something big April 4, 2021? Hopefully by then, we will be at a place where people can gather.”
Moe is grateful to the community for its understanding as events are canceled. He added that people should check the city’s website for updates.
“Things change on a day-to-day basis,” Moe said. “We are still open for business.”