Great Fun at the Laurel Pop Festival Celebration!

Last night, the Laurel History Boys celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Laurel Pop Festival… fifty years to the day, right down to the very minute.

With our largest crowd to date, Kevin‘s presentation about the history of the concert was the perfect lead into a screening of Jeff Krulik‘s documentary film, “Led Zeppelin Played Here“—which includes rare footage and photos from the band’s performance at Laurel Race Course that first night of the Festival.

Among those in the crowd were Brian Knapp, one of the top private collectors of Led Zeppelin memorabilia in the world. Brian brought a few amazing Laurel Pop Festival mementos for show and tell, including ticket stubs, advertisements, and the official program—all of which are extremely rare.

Brian Knapp (foreground)

Another special guest was acclaimed producer and screenwriter Allison McGourty, who is working with the band itself in producing the first official Led Zeppelin documentary. She produced the award-winning documentary series, American Epic. Traveling all the way from Great Britain, she certainly had the longest journey to the North Laurel Community Center!

After the event, we invited everyone to continue the Pop Festival conversation at Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern on Main Street.

Allison McGourty and Jeff Krulik at the end of the table

It was a fantastic night and the perfect way to celebrate an important event in Laurel’s history. That so many people came out on a weeknight (in a heavy thunderstorm, no less) is a testament to that, and we appreciate it.

One of the many great stories we received leading up to this event was this one from Michael Wilson, whom we learned has had one of the rarest Laurel Pop Festival posters in his possession for the past half-century.

(Photos: Michael Wilson)

“There was one at both main entrances to Laurel Race Course. This is the one from the entrance on Rt. 198. My friend Tommy (unfortunately, no longer with us) and I climbed on the top of his van and “liberated” the billboard as members of Sly and the Family Stone cheered us on from their stretch limo. We went over an talked to them and they invited us back to their hotel to party. It was stellar!!! Most of the world had no idea we even had the billboard, until many years later. Tommy and I co-owned it for 40 years, sharing its location from my house to his. After he passed away, I of course got it permanently and it resides in my music room in Billings, Montana, where I moved to 30 years ago.”

Michael Wilson

Many thanks again to everyone who came out to support this fun event, and especially for your donations which helped cover the rather extravagant rental fee that the North Laurel Community Center required, in spite of the numerous free presentations we’ve given at their request in the past.

On a related note, the Laurel History Boys are now a registered non-profit organization in the state of Maryland—which we hope will go a long way toward opening more doors for funding these types of things and allowing us to keep our presentations free to the public. We’re still navigating the red tape involved with establishing tax exemption, etc., but are very proud to have assembled our very first board of directors. They include Laurel City Council member Carl DeWalt, Howard County Historical Society Executive Director Shawn Gladden, and the great Jeff Krulik himself. With their help, we’re looking forward to bigger and better things!

Before the Laurel Pop Festival…

Fifty years ago this month, the legendary Laurel Pop Festival took place at Laurel Race Course. Headlined by a practically unknown Led Zeppelin, the concert spanned July 11th and 12th and included a who’s who of top acts—many of whom would go on to perform at Woodstock just one month later… and eventually into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Join the Laurel History Boys on July 11th—fifty years to the day—for a special presentation in recognition of the historic concert. There will also be a screening of filmmaker Jeff Krulik‘s fantastic documentary, Led Zeppelin Played Here. The film, which focuses on an enduring local legend that has Led Zeppelin playing before approximately 50 confused teenagers at the Wheaton Youth Center that January of 1969, also includes rare footage of the Laurel Pop Festival. A special question and answer session with Jeff will follow the screening.

Did you or anyone you know attend these events in 1969? Do you have photos, ticket stubs, or other memorabilia? Please come and share your stories!

Tom Beach shows off his ticket stubs from the Laurel Pop Festival.

Mark your calendars:

July 11, 2019
6 PM–9 PM
North Laurel Community Center
9411 Whiskey Bottom Road
$5 suggested donation

Please note that while our presentations are always free to the public, we are asking for a suggested donation of $5 per person to help cover the rental cost of the facility. (Unfortunately, despite the countless free presentations Kevin has given at the North Laurel Community Center, they weren’t willing to waive the $360 rental fee—even for a nonprofit organization). Worse, it was disappointing that the City of Laurel completely gave us the runaround on the usage of Partnership Hall—another facility at which we’ve given free presentations in the past. Just something to keep in mind if you’re planning to rent either facility in the future.

Petty politics aside, the 50th anniversary of the Laurel Pop Festival is something to celebrate, and we want to do it right.

Come out to see the film and hear the stories, and then join us afterwards at Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern on Main Street!

Event page on Facebook:

Laurel’s own Rosies

Did you know that Laurel has a chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association? These ladies were hard at work on the homefront during World War II, and we were extremely honored when they asked us to give a presentation last Saturday about what was happening in Laurel during that era.

Richard Friend, Kevin Leonard, and Pete Lewnes with the Rosies: Rena Van Buren, Lorraine Miller, and Wilma Foster.

We gave a brief year-by-year recap of various events, and then focused on three stories from the war years—including Kevin’s recent article about the civilian internees and prisoners of war held at Fort Meade. And for show and tell, Pete brought an array of artifacts from his massive Laurel memorabilia collection.

But it’s difficult to tell a more inspiring story than that of the Rosies themselves, and to have these three remarkable women present was truly an honor.

During the war, Rena Van Buren was a shell casing inspector who knew soldiers’ lives depended on her accurate work.

Lorraine Miller was a Department of Justice stenographer, who met her husband while volunteering at Laurel’s USO club (now American Legion Post 60).

And Wilma Foster worked as a riveter at Fairchild Aircraft in Hagerstown. Wilma’s daughter, Ann Marie Miller, is the President of the Laurel chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association.


Lorraine and Eddie Miller, who met at Laurel’s USO club.

Lorraine, second from left, with other USO girls.

Lorraine enjoys perusing some vintage Laurel memorabilia.

Many thanks again to this wonderful organization and its members, as well as the First United Methodist Church at 424 Main Street, whose Fellowship Hall hosted the event.