If Laurel residents and visitors ever wanted to see a 7-foot-pinecone dropped for New Year’s Eve in lieu of a balloon or ball, they’ll get their chance on Tuesday.
6 p.m.: Food truck and beer service begins on Oak Street; kids' area activities begin on the 400 block of North Magnolia Street
8 p.m.: Kids balloon drop and fireworks show; red & the Revelers begin on the main stage
9 p.m.: Emerald Empire on the main stage
11:30-11:55 p.m.: Champagne service
Midnight: Pinecone drop, fireworks show, midnight performance
Laurel Main Street is inviting the public to its inaugural lighting of the “Rhinestone Pinecone,” supplied by Headrick Signs and Graphics, plus access to food and drinks throughout downtown for New Year’s Eve. The Downtown Countdown was created by a merchant-comprised volunteer committee helmed by Loblolly Boutique owner Wayne Bryant and Lott Furniture manager Keri Rowell.
The event is free, but Rowell noted attendees should bring some cash for alcohol and food. Rain or shine, the event will go on, with an open kids’ area and balloon drop hosted by Ben and Erin Napier at 8 p.m. on the 400 block of North Magnolia Street — between Oak and 5th streets. Tickets for a roaring ’20s-themed seating area and speakeasy — which includes a cigar bar — are available at $100 at laurelmainstreet.com.
Rowell said she and Bryant began working on the event at the end of last year. The Downtown Countdown is one of a few new events, in addition to new businesses and residents, pushing Laurel to become a destination town instead of a waystation.
“In years past, it probably wasn’t, because in my opinion, if I’m going to a weekend destination, there are components you look for,” Rowell said. “We’ve got a lot of great restaurants now, a lot of events going on throughout the year and a lot of great shopping. We’re starting to get more nightlife as well.”
Lodging is on the increase in Laurel, and every Airbnb in town is booked for the event, said Laurel Main Street Director Judi Holifield.
“I think we have a good reputation as far as putting on events,” she said. “If you could go take your children out at 8 p.m. to see fireworks, then come back for the pinecone drop, it’s a win-win. It’s free.”
“This is the first event of its size for New Year’s Eve in Jones County, to my knowledge,” Rowell said. “I think around here, in the past, you would go to Hattiesburg or Jackson for something to do. Now, people in the region are coming out. Big events like this give a town more credibility to be a destination.”
Among the event’s frequently asked questions is why Laurel Main Street went with a giant pinecone, as answered on the Downtown Countdown Facebook page:
“New York City drops a ball, Mobile drops a moon pie and we are dropping a loblolly pinecone at midnight!” the page reads.
“We are in the Pine Belt, and we have a Loblolly Festival,” Holifield said. “The loblolly pine tree is indigenous. Laurel was built on a timber mill. We’re playing off of our heritage.”
As this is the inaugural event, Holifield said the committee will regroup and try to put on the Downtown Countdown annually.
Food trucks and beer will be available from 6 p.m. Red & the Revelers and Emerald Empire are set to entertain with live music. A fireworks show will accompany the pinecone drop.