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.This year, Laurel is one of the few places where you can light off fireworks.

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

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

The festivities start to get rowdy the night before the 4th with the street dance. It's at KC's Palace Bar and Lanes, at the corner of Main and 3rd St. 3rd, with the 7th Avenue Band providing the entertainment. Gates open at 7 pm and wristbands are just $5.

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The fun on the 4th starts early in Laurel.

Kick your day off with the Pancake Breakfast from 7 - 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.

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. There is a craft fair that runs all day and a corn hole tournament at noon at Laurel High School.  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.

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. People set-up "camp" with coolers, blankets and lawn chairs and just relax or grill. There are usually some volleyball games going on. There is DJ music playing on the 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.

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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.

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, but this year is shaping up to be a scorcher.
  • 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 at 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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