A rite of spring for many folks in Laurel is spending the Saturday before Mother's Day celebrating hometown roots at the annual Laurel Main Street Festival.
Organized by the Laurel Board of Trade, this is the 35th year for the annual street party, which starts with a parade and continues with vendors, food and live music.
The city will close Main Street to vehicles from Route 1 South to Seventh Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and upward of 100,000 visitors are expected to attend.
As in years past, Laurel resident Stu Knazik will sing the national anthem at 9 a.m., just prior to the parade. Led by the American Legion Color Guard and starting at Sixth and Main, about 65 units will march in the parade this year, according to Laurel Board of Trade director Jim Cross.
Cross has been organizing the parade with his wife, Laurel, for the last decade and said members of the Laurel Chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association will serve as grand marshals in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Laurel Chapter president Ann Marie Miller said the Rosie car — a maroon Ford sedan owned by Wayne and Theresa Barnes of Hanover, Pa. — will carry 91-year-old Rena Van Buren. Van Buren inspected bullet shell casings in Cumberland during World War II.
Cross said he hoped to find an antique convertible for two other Rosies: 90-year-old Wilma Foster, who worked in Hagerstown riveting Fairchild PT19 wings; and 89-year-old Lee Kunklee, who worked on an assembly line in Upper New York.
Miller said she served as the town crier for the first festival 35 years ago. The Rosies will display a "Spirit of 45" banner honoring the anniversary in the parade and occupy a booth in front of First United Methodist Church.
"I am so proud," she said.
Richard Friend, of Lost Laurel, is riding in the parade for the first time with Mike Templeton in Templeton's red 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible.
Friend said he remembers attending the first Main Street Festival in 1981 as a 9-year-old, when just walking in the middle of the street "created a sense of novelty and wonder."
"When I walk down Main Street today, the ghosts of Laurel businesses past are with me, especially during the festival," he said. "Riding in the parade is going to be an utterly exciting experience."
After the parade, live entertainment will begin off the street where audiences can gather more easily. Stages will be set up in the Revere Bank parking lot and in the alcove next to Oliver's Sport Bar.
Returning band manager Gary King, of G. King Productions, has worked the Main Street Festival for the past four years.
"I've seen it [the festival] grow musically with a lot of people wanting to play it," he said. "There's a lot of buzz as people keep coming back."
At Main and Avondale streets, Laurel resident and band manager Garry Wilson, of 98.6 Sound (serving the festival for the fifth year), has also booked live bands and a DJ.
According to Laurel Board of Trade President Marvin Rogers, out-of-state vendors from up and down the East Coast — Florida, New Jersey, New York and Virginia — registered this year.
He said festival food choices for "every palate" will offer Caribbean-flavored Jamaican jerk, boardwalk fries, fish, crab cakes, seafood platters, burgers, hot dogs, ribs, steak and cheese subs, corn dogs, pit barbecue, pupuseria (El Salvadoran corn cakes), funnel cakes, snow cones and ice cream.
Brand-name vendors offering items such as Mary Kay and Tupperware will join church and civic groups, members of the local business community and arts and crafts vendors.
Among the offerings are children's craft activities such as sand art and face painting, and all sorts of handmade craft items including clothing for women and children.
Rogers said the cancellation of the Marlborough Day Festival this year (held yearly in Upper Marlboro the same Saturday as the Laurel festival) brought in new vendors and will likely bring in additional crowds.
One of those vendors, Jump for Youngsters, will set up a mini carnival featuring mechanical rides, slides and games on the Quill Lot next to BB&T Bank.
Carnival owner Walter Hall, who has been selling funnel cakes at the Laurel festival for about 15 years, said he contacted Maureen Rogers, festival chairwoman and Laurel Board of Trade administrator, about bringing the mini carnival to Laurel when this year's Marlborough Day was canceled.
"We hope to be a part of the Laurel Main Street Festival for years to come," Walter said.
Marvin Rogers said a memorabilia photo booth has been added and that "higher tech," wireless speakers will be set up all along Main Street this year.
Rogers said city officials and members of the Laurel Board of Trade had to meet frequently during planning to ensure all details were in order.
"I can't overemphasize the partnership," Rogers said. "I think it's a valuable asset to the city."
35th annual Main Street Festival
The Laurel Board of Trade's 35th Laurel Main Street Festival is Saturday, May 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Main Street will be closed to vehicles from Seventh Street to Route 1 South.
No pets except service dogs will be allowed on the street or in the vending areas. Skateboards, bicycles or other wheeled vehicles are also prohibited, and Laurel police will be present to enforce the city's policies.
A Stage, Revere Bank parking lot between A and B streets
10:30-11:30 a.m., Savage Bluegrass Band; 11:50 a.m.-12:50 p.m., Ras Lidj and Deep Band (reggae and go-go); 1:10-2:10 p.m., Morrison Rhodes (blues, country, southern, classic and modern rock); 2:30-4 p.m., Whyte Crimson (funky jam).
B Stage, alcove next to Oliver's Sports Bar
10-11 a.m., Voodoo Pharmacology (old-timey folk); 11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m., The Expanding Man (progressive rock jam); 12:40-1:40 p.m., Burn The House (blues); 2-3 p.m., Pale Discretion (alternative rock); 3:20-3:50 p.m., Will Sims (alternative acoustic).
Main and Avondale