Mountain Laurel Festival returning this May

The Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival is returning this May after last year’s absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and things are gearing up to make this year’s festival a good time for all.

The event is set for May 27 – 30.

Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock commented on the festival’s return.

“We’re excited to start seeing things slowly get back to normal,” he said. “It’s great that we’re going to be able to continue the tradition and have the Mountain Laurel Festival back.”

2021 KMLF General Chairman Jacob Roan gave some details of this year’s festival, including some adjustments that have been made to ensure the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines are met.

“For instance, the Thursday night concert that’s usually at Bell High usually has 1,000 people crammed into that gymnasium, now we’re going to be doing that on the football field at Pineville,” Roan said.

According to Roan, moving the concert will enable more people to enjoy the concert.

“We’re going to be able to sell more tickets than we would have sold at the gym,” Roan said. “We’re going to be able to allow more people while maintaining social distancing at that specific event.”

Roan said an offer to headline the concert has been made to a Nashville artist who recently had a number one hit song, but the booking has not been finalized at this time.

Roan mentioned most of the changes to the festival will be venue changes.

“That’s just to allow social distancing to be implemented,” Roan said. “As the (COVID-19) numbers are going down in Bell County and across the state, there are some restrictions that are being lifted and we are watching those closely because we would like to get to back to as normal a festival as we possibly can, so anything we can do safely we’re going to attempt.”

There are also many festival activities planned to take place in downtown Pineville.

“The gala parade is on Saturday, May 29 at 10 a.m. and we’re getting a good turnout for parade entries already,” Roan said. “We’ll have downtown entertainment all weekend as well as vendors and arts and crafts.”

Roan said the only event that may face a major change is the Queen’s Ball.

“The Queen’s Ball is a dance on Saturday night, and that will be moving outside and be more like a reception,” Roan explained.

Roan mentioned the highlight of the festival this year is not contained to any specific event.

“One highlight this year will be simply that we are able to come back and have a festival at the end of a pandemic,” Roan said. “We expect the Thursday night concert, the parade and as always the crowning of a new Queen to all be highlights.”

Tickets for the events requiring admission will be available from the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival website at www.kmlf.org and on the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival Facebook page.

All necessary COVID-19 precautions will be observed.

“We are working with Bell County Health Department Director Teresa Hunter and following the CDC guidelines,” Roan said. “The health and safety of everyone that plans to attend is in the forefront of the planning process.”

Roan pointed out The Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival is one of the oldest festivals in Kentucky. The festival has taken place nearly every year since it began in 1931, with the exceptions of last year and a few years during WWII when the festival was not held due to the war.

“We ask that everyone plan to join us,” Roan said. “We’re taking every precaution possible to ensure they’ll have a great time and remain safe.”