Laurel residents have much to look forward to this year as the city reaches its sesquicentennial milestone, and the mood was celebratory Monday evening at the 150th Anniversary Celebration Kickoff during the first mayoral and City Council meeting of 2020.
Prior to the meeting, copies of an event guide and a city of Laurel Anniversary Passport Book flew off a bright yellow table in the Municipal Center lobby as citizens, government officials and members of the media filled the Council Chambers to the brim.
Council President Keith Sydnor officially called the meeting to order at 6 p.m.
The meeting started with business as usual — the Presentation of Colors by the Laurel Police and Laurel Volunteer Fire departments, the Pledge of Allegiance led by Mayor Craig Moe and performances of the national anthem and “Say Yes” by the Laurel High School choir.
After the council approved prior minutes, meetings and work sessions, its members reported briefly on topics as diverse as the health of the Patuxent River, speeding and public safety, local philanthropy and an upcoming job fair.
Councilman Carl DeWalt, of Ward 1, was the first to wish Laurel a “Happy 150th Birthday!” when he mentioned the status of a commemorative book by the nonprofit Laurel History Boys.
Laurel History Boy Richard Friend wrote in an email that the anticipated book, “Laurel at 150: Celebrate Our History, Anticipate Our Future,” should be off the press in early March and available online. It presents “a vivid illustration of events — some serious, some amusing, some not very flattering“ — that date back to before the city was incorporated in 1870.
After proclaiming Jan. 13 the official kickoff date, Moe called Laurel’s council members and Anniversary Ambassadors forward to thank them for their contributions.
“There’s something for everybody for the next year,” he said.
Gayle Snyder, a 150th anniversary committee member, launched the Celebration Kickoff that everyone had been waiting for at just past 6:29 p.m., .
Audrey Barnes, city communications director, presented an overview of the Passport Rewards Program — a series of 36 family-friendly events scheduled from February to December (participants will have their passport books stamped at each event they attend) — that will culminate in a random drawing for prizes in January 2020.
Passport books will be available at the Laurel Museum’s Feb. 2 opening, and year-round to museum visitors, according to Laurel Historical Society Executive Director Anne Bennett.
Next, proclamations to the city of Laurel were presented by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball; Frederick Smalls, for the office of Governor Larry Hogan; Ariana Sorto, for the Maryland House of Delegates District 21; Juwan Blocker, for the office of Comptroller Peter Franchot; Scott Hancock, for the Maryland Municipal League; and by Moe, who appeared especially pleased to have received a proclamation from the city of Laurel, Missouri.
Snyder closed the meeting with an overview of Laurel’s history since its incorporation on April 4, 1870. She also shared a video of her grandson, Kyle Snyder (the youngest wrestling champion in U.S. history to win an Olympic gold medal), who spoke of his appreciation for Laurel and thanked Moe for “showing him his famous wrestling move.”
Refreshments provided by Laurel’s Olive on Main and a 150th birthday cake served by the Moe topped off the evening.
“Today’s a great day,” Moe said. “It’s a very exciting time. The community really came together, and I feel honored to be the city’s mayor during this time.”
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Celebrations continue on Feb. 2, when Laurel Museum, 817 Main St., opens its 2020 exhibit entitled “Unpacking Laurel’s Past: 150 Years on Display.”
Bennett said creating the eclectic exhibit — loosely based on sub-themes such as transportation, community, home, children, faith organizations and entertainment — has provided Historical Society members an exciting opportunity to share never-before-seen items from the museum’s collections.
“Some are big, unique and iconic; others are everyday items common to prior generations that connect Laurel to Everytown, U.S.A.,” Bennett said.
Barnes said the city of Laurel is sending photographers to all of the city’s 150th Anniversary events, and the best photos will be published in a commemorative 2020 yearbook available for purchase in early 2021. Produced by the city of Laurel, the yearbook is separate from the Laurel History Boys book “Laurel at 150: Celebrate Our History, Anticipate Our Future.”