When I first moved in with my spouse around 15 years ago, it meant moving to Laurel. I never really considered myself much of a small-town guy. "Really? Laurel? With the trains and the refinery?" This ought to be exciting, I thought.

I've grown to enjoy our community and when I moved here I soon realized how much Independence Day is 100% Laurel's big day.  Sure, lots of small towns have 4th celebrations, but in Laurel, it's bigger than Christmas, New Year's, and Halloween combined. Many families here plan their vacations around the 4th. It's part vacation, part family reunion, and definitely a good time. Laurel is typically one of the few communities where you can legally light off fireworks (July 2nd to the 5th only).

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If you've never been to Laurel on the 4th, here's the rundown.

Summer music festival attracting a lot of people

The party kicks off on Sunday night, July 3rd with the Street Dance. 

The festivities start to get rowdy the night before Independence Day with the street dance. It's at KC's Palace Bar and Lanes, at the corner of Main and 3rd St. 3rd, with Sanctuary on the stage at 8 pm. Gates open at 6 pm and the band plays till midnight. Wristbands are just $10.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media
Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

The fun on the 4th starts early in Laurel.

Kick your day off with the Pancake Breakfast from 7 am to 11 AM at Fireman's Park (on 1st and Main). Giant pancakes and a hearty breakfast are always a great way to start your 4th of July, especially if you plan on enjoying some adult beverages throughout the day.

  • The Chief Joseph Run also starts bright and early on the 4th, near the Laurel High School track field. You won't see me there because I'm not much of a runner. I hear it's fun?
  • The Grand Parade is at 11 AM. Arrive early for parking and bring a lawn chair to plop down on the sidewalk. As far a parades go, it's pretty big and the Laurel Chamber is reportedly expecting a lot of entries this year.
  • The Food and Craft Fair runs from 9 am to 9 pm.
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4th of July Picnic Table - Hot Dogs
Credit: circlePS

Hit the craft show, a food truck, or enter the corn hole tournament.

After the parade, you've got a few options to kill time before the fireworks. I traditionally headed out to the river with my crew and enjoyed some sun, beers, water, and maybe a nap on a floaty, before heading back to Thompson Park for the big show.

Tourist couple buying pasta from food truck at outdoor market
Credit: Kritchanut

Claim your spot at the park and relax before the fireworks.

Many people head over to Thompson Park after the parade or at some point in the afternoon. There is a large variety of food trucks and vendors, crafts, and various other activities. Hundreds of people set up "camp" with coolers, blankets, lawn chairs, and just relax or fire up their portable grills. There are usually some volleyball games going on.

DJ music plays on the park loudspeakers and every once in a while they fire off one of those super loud boomer fireworks. Supposedly to check the wind, but I think the firemen just get bored and like to light them off. The Laurel Dodgers will be selling ice-cold beverages on-site again this year.

fireworks isolated on Black
Credit: PorFang, Getty Stock/ThinkStock

Biggest fireworks display in Montana.

The highlight of the day is Montana's biggest (allegedly?) fireworks display at dusk. You can see the big ones from pretty much anywhere in Laurel, but it's fun to enjoy the show in Thompson Park because they do a few special things, like the soldier candle salute. It really is a great time.

Fireworks For Sale Ahead July 4th Holiday
Getty Images

Other Laurel 4th of July tips:

  • Park where you can and bring your lawn chair.
  • Don't forget to drink some water and find shade if you can. Consider bringing a pop-up canopy. It's always hot on the 4th and this year is no exception, with highs expected to hit the low 90s.
  • Coolers are allowed at Thompson Park.
  • Be patient getting home.
  • Traffic is a nightmare. Some people think it's faster to take the backroads home to Billings, instead of the interstate. Your results may vary.

You can find out more details on the Laurel Chamber of Commerce page HERE. See you in Laurel on the 4th.

7 Ways to Celebrate the 4th of July Without Fireworks

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