Advocate photo by MISSIE NOEL -- From left, festival co-founder David Kiviaho; Debbie Crouch, CEO of Habitat for Humanity East; Parish President Pat Brister; and festival co-founder Sharon Sandifer, declare May 17 as Louisiana Veterans Festival Day.

A veterans tribute show, car extravaganza and a VIP Mess Hall are just some of the ways the inaugural Louisiana Veterans Festival will honor those who serve and have served from the state of Louisiana. The festival will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Northshore Harbor Center, 100 Harbor Center Blvd., off Interstate 10, in Slidell.

Louisiana veterans and residents alike will be able to celebrate Saturday on the Harbor Center grounds, which will be decorated with a red, white and blue theme and flags. A large stage and midway area will be staged at the venue.

Live music featuring The Top Cats, Missi Spinosa, Redline, Witness and Bag of Donuts will provide a day of music to celebrate veterans. The highlight will be a Broadway-type show, “A Tribute to America,” created by Spinosa, a member of the band Witness. It will be performed at 1 p.m. Witness will perform later in the day.

Hundreds of the region’s finest classic cars will be on view during the car show organized by the Coastal Cruisers. A VIP Mess Hall will be set up to serve veterans and JROTC groups who will participate throughout the day. There will be amusement rides, interactive technology, food and drink, arts and crafts and other veteran-themed activities.

Marine Corp. Matt Cole, of Slidell, and Lt. Col. Scott Forrest, of Shreveport, are state honorary co-chairmen for the festival. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and other dignitaries will be on hand at the opening ceremonies, as well.

“This region needs to support, honor and pay tribute to our veterans as often as we can,” said David Kiviaho, who with his sister, Sharon Sandifer, co-chairs the festival.

“This festival is being born in Slidell, but it represents the entire state of Louisiana. The entire day is built upon ways that we can spotlight veterans and their service to our region and our country,” Kiviaho said.

Hosted by the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity, the festival will provide a venue for families and friends to thank veterans for their service. Registered with the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals, and the Louisiana Secretary of State, all proceeds benefit the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity’s Veterans Build Program. Funds will be raised through admissions, the car show and vendors.

A local veteran will be selected to receive the home; however, the home is not free. The family must contribute “sweat equity” and take on a no-interest mortgage, according to Debbie Crouch, Habitat executive director.

When the parcel of land was donated for the local Habitat to build the home with a veteran, there were not funds available for Habitat’s portion, Crouch said. The festival will pay the closing costs on the home and help fund the chapter’s costs to build the home, she said.

“We are committed to keeping this festival in St. Tammany Parish,” Kiviaho said. “We are so thrilled with the statewide support the event has garnered and look forward to many more years of success and many more years of support for our veterans. We are thrilled to partner with Habitat and the Veterans Build Home.”

General admission to the event is $5 for veterans; $8 for others; and children 12 and younger are free. Bring your lawn chairs, but no ice chests, and kick back to enjoy the Louisiana Veterans Festival.

For information on the festival or the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity Veteran’s Build, call (985) 639-0656 or visit or