LAUREL HILL — The annual Laurel Hill Arts and Heritage Festival draws visitors from throughout north Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties, and from south Covington County, Alabama.
"We discovered this event a couple years ago," Pensacola resident Lois Smothers said at last year’s festival. "It’s the perfect small-town festival. It’s intimate yet the variety of vendors and music is just wonderful."
And, at just four hours, it’s the perfect length, she said.
"You can see everything and hear lots of great musical groups, yet not feel exhausted at the end of the day, like you do at bigger festivals," she said.
While some festivals charge vendors hefty booth fees and feature sales reps selling factory-made products, the Laurel Hill festival emphasizes the works of local crafters, visual artists, and cottage food creators, and charges no booth fee.
"That’s why I love the Laurel Hill Arts Fest!" crafter and cottage foods maker Pam Pursley said. "The hosts are amazing and the community comes out to support the crafters and artists."
"It’s wholesome family fun, and a fun time to shake a leg to the many entertainers," Linda Monte, who produces a wide range of visual, fabric and culinary arts, said.
"I look forward to this event every year," Rae Schwartz, co-sponsor, Friends of the Arts president and fabric artist, said. "Laurel Hill is a special small community, and I always feel a sense of the best of the past when I am there."
"It’s an opportunity to really show off the God-given talents that bless so many of our north county neighbors," said the Rev. Mark Broadhead, pastor of the 120-year-old Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church, on the grounds of which the festival is held.
Among heritage groups exhibiting this year are the Baker Block Museum and the Family Food Project, an opportunity for attendees to share their family dining traditions with food historian Oso Wallman.
This year’s entertainment includes The Wesley Boys men’s gospel harmony quartet and Emerald Coast Pipes and Drums, which have been regulars at the festival since its 2010 origins. New this year is the Beach Brass Quintet, a group that plays music ranging from pop and swing to Ragtime and Dixieland jazz.
Community organizations and social services use the festival to connect with north county residents, and include the Crestview Area Sister City Program, Ladies of Law Enforcement spouses’ support group, Boy Scouts Troop 773 — whose scouts will bake their ever-popular Scout Cobbler — and the Laurel Hill Little Free Library, which will sponsor a book and DVD sale to raise money to build a children’s Little Readers’ Free Library.
Look for honey and honey products from local beekeepers; fabric artists who will provide crochet and knitting lessons; Laurel Hill artist April Tucker, who is forming a new community crafts group; and turned woodwork from Dannis Young, who was commissioned by Crestview Mayor David Cadle to create a gift for his counterpart in Noirmoutier, France.
"I love this chance to share my work with genuine and appreciative people," Mr. Young said. "Giving someone a piece of art they appreciate means so much to me."
"It’s a small-town festival with a big heart for our community and its traditions," Pastor Broadhead said.