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Organizers ‘hit the ground running’ to bring Laurel Festival back

PHOTO PROVIDED A well-dressed llama marches in a past year’s pet parade. The 2021 parade will kick off with a pet parade on June 13.

After being canceled last year due to COVID-19 concerns, the Pennsylvania State Laurel Festival in Wellsboro is coming back to its former glory starting June 12.

Named for the state flower, the mountain laurel, the Laurel Festival will be celebrating its 79th year in operation.

The Laurel Festival was supposed to look quite different this year.

Revised/restricted events were initially on the docket to create “some kind of festival atmosphere,” said Julie Henry, executive director of the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce and the Wellsboro Foundation.

When Gov. Tom Wolf announced May 4 that most COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted at the end of the month, the Laurel Festival planners had their work cut out for them.

“We hit the ground running to revert the festival to a more traditional landscape,” Henry said.

Some COVID-19 precautions are still in place, though.

“We encourage everybody to take personal responsibility,” Henry said.

Children are asked to continue wearing masks because they cannot get vaccinated yet. There are also fewer vendors to allow everyone to spread out.

“I think everybody is fairly used” to social distancing, Henry said.

The decisions to cancel last year’s festival did not come lightly.

“We waited until the last minute to cancel it,” she said.

Planning the Laurel Festival usually takes all year, she said, so it was “a little down-heartening” to cancel it.

However, Henry said that it was the right call to make and that holding the festival last year would have been “irresponsible.”

The Laurel Festival was canceled only once before, during wartime, Henry said.

“We’re just really excited.”

Wellsboro Mayor John Wheeler echoed this sentiment.

“There seems to be a lot of interest in the Laurel Festival this year,” he said.

All of the following information and a more detailed itinerary can be found here: https://www.wellsboropa.com/index.php/PA-State-Laurel-Festival.

The festivities will commence June 12 with a Family Day and Children’s Health Fair on The Green. This event will take place from 10 a.m to 1 p.m.

June 13 marks the pet parade at 1:30 p.m. (judging starts at 12:30). The free event is open to children under 12 and their families.

The next few days will welcome the quartet of the Laurel Concert Series from the 14-17 at 7 p.m.

June 18 will see the Arts and Crafts Fair and International Street of Foods from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on The Green. The Laurel Queen contestants will be introduced in front of the county courthouse at noon, with the queen’s preview and concert by Boot Hill coming at 4:30 p.m. Then, at 7 p.m., a folk-rock concert by Gathering Time will close out the evening.

Saturday, June 19, kicks off with a 10k Foot Race and 2-Mile Fun run at 9 a.m. in Packer Park. The Arts and Crafts Fair and International Street of Food will continue from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The event everyone has been waiting for will start at 2 p.m.: the Pennsylvania State Laurel Festival Parade. This will be followed by the crowning of the Laurel Queen at 6:30 p.m.

The eight-day extravaganza will conclude with a Union Church Service at 10:30 a.m. June 20.

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