AMITE — Hundreds of Amite natives and visitors celebrated the city’s 150th anniversary Saturday and Sunday by devouring barbecue, listening to music and competing in a cook-off.
Children rode ponies and caught parade goodies at the two-day festival in honor of the milestone.
Preparation for the event began in May. The celebration, originally scheduled for the Labor Day weekend, was postponed because of severe weather, said Ashley Adamson, manager of the Amite Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event.
“Because we postponed it, we didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But it was a huge success. We had so much support from the town. People put balloons outside of their businesses, and the clerk of court made a birthday cake out of haystacks and put a candle on top.”
The community support was evident as families flocked to the town’s center for the festivities, browsing tents of local merchandise and anniversary memorabilia.
To commemorate the anniversary, Karen Kemp, owner of Kemp’s Trophies and Gifts, sold engraved plates modeled after the plates that were sold for the 100th anniversary.
But the plates and other keepsakes are not the only traditions in Amite, she said.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Kemp said. “People are born here, raised here and stay here.”
That’s definitely true for Ida Tryniecki, a 91-year-old Amite native who said she is a member of one of the oldest families. Her father owned a general store in the Tony Balsano building that still stands off the main street, and the family lived on the second floor. She smiled as she recalled the other Amite families of the time.
“I love it here — I wouldn’t go nowhere else,” she said.
Nickole Barnes agreed, and said Amite has been her home for 33 years. Barnes said she wants her children to be raised in her hometown.
“I like the fact they are in the same spot I was in, doing the same things I did growing up here,” she said. “It’s a great town.”
Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess said he admires the family-friendly atmosphere in Amite, which is the center of Tangipahoa Parish government.
“It was my choice to move (to Tangipahoa Parish) from New Orleans because of the quality of life,” he said.
“In a sense, government is a major industry for this town,” said lifelong resident Vince LaBarbera, Amite city coordinator.
“It’s a long history, but I really feel Amite is on the dawn of a new horizon,” he said optimistically. “We’re remodeling and trying to put life back downtown.”
Shirley Gabriel, member of the Stem and Stamen Garden Club, said she is already beginning to see the progress.
Gabriel, a resident of Amite since 1952, said there has been an influx of people and business in the past six years. Despite the changes, Gabriel said, she is happy the town has kept its character.
Amite’s personality can be seen in the historic downtown district, noting the police station inside the old train depot, and through the few remaining founding families, Gabriel said.