This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival.
The first Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival was presented in 1931 at the suggestion of Ms. Annie Walker Burns. Her original purpose was to honor Dr. Thomas Walker, the first European to enter Kentucky and who, along with a party of explorers, visited the present site of Pineville in 1750. Ms. Burns was captivated by the history and beauty surrounding Pineville and appealed to Governor Flem D. Sampson of Barbourville to initiate some type of event to honor Dr. Walker. She gained the support of other influential Bell Countians, and the 1931 Festival was staged at Clear Creek Springs on June fourth.
The L&N Railroad ran a special train from Pineville for the festivities. The first queen was Ms. Betty Baxter of Beatyville who represented Eastern State Teachers College at Richmond. Baxter was crowned by Governor Sampson.
The first several years, Ms. A. L. (Nettie) Hutchinson, President of the Pineville Woman’s Club, was the guiding force in the Festival’s continuation. In 1933, the Festival site was moved to the Pine Mountain State Resort Park (known at that time as Cumberland Park). The Coronation Pageant has been held at this location ever since.
As far as we have been able to ascertain, the Festival is the oldest continuous event of its kind in the United States. It as been held annually except for six World War II years of 1942-1947.