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Laurel Summer Fest features music and barbecue contest
Annual event slated for Aug. 29 at Laurel Park in Gainesville
Carson Gwynn, 7, pushes his sister Aleah, 8, in a hamster ball during last year’s Laurel Summer Fest at Laurel Park. The siblings are from Lula.

Laurel Summer Fest 2015

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29

Where: Laurel Park, 3100 Old Cleveland Highway, Gainesville

Cost: $10 adults, free for children younger than 12; additional $5 to eat at barbecue competition

More info: Laurel Fest Facebook page or

Kid-friendly activities, a splash pad, live music, food and beverages will entertain young and old alike to combat the inevitable end-of-summer blues and raise money for charity.

Sponsored by Hall County’s Parks and Leisure Department and the Gainesville Jaycees, the Laurel Summer Fest will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, at Laurel Park, 3100 Old Cleveland Highway, Gainesville.

Steven Ellis, board member and social event coordinator for the Gainesville Jaycees, said he was thrilled when the Hall County Parks and Leisure Department contacted them to team up for this year’s festival.

“We were ecstatic,” Ellis said. “It was a great opportunity for us.”

Admission is $10 for adults and free for children younger than 12.

Children can get wet on the splash pad or participate in several games or activities at the park. Adults can sit back and enjoy the lineup of musical acts, including Fly Betty Band.

Craft and food vendors will be scattered throughout the park. About a dozen dogs and puppies from the Hall County Animal Shelter will be ready for adoption at the festival as well. A fireworks show will close out the event Saturday night.

During the day, both young and old can smell, look and taste the various barbecue entries from the The Hawgin’ on Lanier KCBS competition. Barbecue teams from across the Southeast will compete for the $10,000 prize.

Teams will compete in several categories, including pork ribs, beef brisket and chicken. Guests may pay an additional $5 to eat limitless barbecue and vote in the “People’s Choice” category.

Local public safety departments will participate in their own cook-off. Teams registered to compete are from the Hall County Fire Services, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, the Gainesville Fire Department and the Gainesville Police Department.

The winner will take home an actual heavyweight boxing belt and defend the title next year.

However, the goal of this year’s barbecue cook-off is to support the Gainesville Jaycees’ Gut Check program and Empty Stocking Fund, as well as Hall County Parks and Leisure’s scholarship programs.

The Gut Check program helps to foster young men’s minds in leadership roles and teach them discipline in a fun and structured way. Designed specifically for middle school students, they are taught lessons such as the importance of a good handshake or looking someone in the eyes when talking to them. The lessons take place at the University of North Georgia Dahlonega campus.

“It’s a high-energy environment,” Ellis said. “These are great kids. They just need a push in the right direction.”

The second program benefitted by Laurel Fest is the Empty Stocking Fund, which helps Hall County’s needy children during the Christmas season. The money raised provides presents for hundreds of children.

“We go all over Hall County to find needy children,” Ellis said.

Hall County Parks and Leisure’s scholarship programs will also receive funds.

A $1,000 donation from the Gainesville Jaycees has already been set aside to raise awareness and generate funds for the Public Service Members Memorial in downtown Gainesville.

For more information on the Laurel Summer Fest, check out their Facebook page or visit