‘I’ve enjoyed seeing people again’: 90th annual Mountain Laurel Festival kicks off in Pineville

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Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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PINEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - The 90th annual Mountain Laurel Festival in Bell County is underway, the first major festival in Eastern Kentucky since the pandemic began.

“It feels really good to be back out in the public and doing festivals. I mean we’ve been in quarantine I guess for over a year now. I mean, we had to come and check everybody out you know, everybody down here is super nice. We, we really love Pineville,” said Chris Caudill, who is attending the festival.

Rain did not stop the community from coming out, as they were excited to see each other again, after the event was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

“That was the theme of the night and I think the theme of this weekend is I think everyone is together again, back home here in Pineville. And man, we missed it last year but it’s back,” said Jacob Roan, General Chairman of the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival.

Caudill, who has attended the festival for years, is encouraging those who may be a little hesitant to come join the fun.

“You can’t live your life in fear. I think that if you want to come down and have a good time, just come down, have a good time. And if you want to stay away from people, you can. It’s, you know it’s really your choice how you want to approach people,” said Caudill.

Nearly 2,000 people attended the festival Thursday for opening night, and Friday, festival-goers enjoyed a variety of food vendors and carnival games.

“We invite everyone back out. We had a great crowd last night downtown and we expect a great crowd tomorrow downtown so hopefully people will brave the weather and come on out and join us. We have so many people that have worked so hard to pull this off and we really want people to come down and share in the experience with us,” said Roan.

With an ease of mask restrictions, the community was eager to be able to see each other’s faces once again.

“You’re used to seeing everybody in masks and you know and staying away from each other, everything and now people are a little more relaxed, you know. I for one have had my vaccines and it feels good to shake hands you know and give people a hug,” said Caudill.

“Seeing faces again. And people need people and that’s what I’ve enjoyed most is seeing people again,” said Roan.

The festival will continue through Sunday.

For a full list of events, click here.

In the KMLF Princess Coronation Friday night, Emmaleigh Kate Bargo representing Barbourville High School was named 2021 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival Princess. The KMLF Queen will be crowned Saturday afternoon.

Emmaleigh Kate Bargo was crowned 2021 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival Princess.
Emmaleigh Kate Bargo was crowned 2021 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival Princess.(Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival)
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