The weather was beautiful for the first-time Louisiana Veterans Festival, with cooling winds drifting across the grounds of the Northshore Harbor Center in Slidell. Hosted by the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity, the festival provided a venue for families and friends to thank our veterans for their service. All proceeds from the event benefit the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity’s Veteran’s Build Program.

David Kiviaho and Sharon Sandifer were co-chairmen for the event. The festivities began with an opening ceremony and presentation of Colors by the Northshore High School Army JROTC and the Pearl River High School ROTC.

Lt. Col. Scott Forrest and Marine Cpl. Matt Cole both served as the honorary veteran chairmen for the event. Speakers for the event included Sean Noel, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Secretary of State Tom Schedler, as well as local dignitaries.

Entertainment throughout the day was provided by Missi Spinosa, Redline, Witness, Bag of Donuts and the Top Cats. The Coastal Cruisers of Slidell, chaired by Barry Barone, and B and B Motorsports hosted a “Car Extravaganza” at the site, featuring old and new refurbished and antique cars for viewing.

Amusement rides, food booths, and an arts and crafts showcase completed the festivities, and the crowds in attendance verified that St. Tammany will be a welcome, permanent host for this annual statewide tribute to veterans.

East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce grand opening

The East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce recently celebrated the grand opening of its new headquarters at 1808 Front St. in Slidell. CEO Dawn Sharpe-Brackett introduced special guests at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, including State Sen. A.G. Crowe, State Reps. Kevin Pearson and Greg Cromer, Parish President Pat Brister and City Councilman C. Buddy Lloyd.

Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan pronounced the opening as a “great day for our city,” and Joe DiGiovanni, past president of the chamber board, shared, “This building has been a fixture in Olde Towne Slidell for generations, having served as a saloon, a drug company, a coffee shop, the Slidell Hotel and Bar, and most recently, the Honky Tonk lounge. The chamber will have a bright, new future in this building.”

The building features offices and board rooms upstairs, with “Cultural Tenants” in the downstairs space, including Fleur de Beans Café, Sambola Gallery, bAd NOLA, Pottery Studio KLH and the Main Street Marketplace.

The Building Committee, headed up by Chairman John Smith, took great care to restore the building’s historic architecture and design, preserving many of the old doors to use as desks and salvaging floorboards, as well.

The Rev. Eugene Wellington provided the blessing for the building, and music during the event was provided by the Flatliners as well as Ronnie Kole. Kole entertained guests on a beautifully decorated piano donated by the family of Slidell Memorial Hospital CEO Billy Davis.

The event also served to announce the winner of the chamber’s “$10,000 Give-Away.” The winner of the drawing was the Sliver Slipper Casino. Chamber COO JoBeth Kavanaugh said, “The Silver Slipper gives so much to our community and even after winning, they agreed to turn around and host a “Pay It Forward Party” here at the chamber in the fall. They will be using their winnings to host the event, and will provide catering by their own Blue Bayou restaurant. Proceeds from the event will support our artists, local nonprofits and the chamber.”

For more information on the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce, visit

Missie Arata Noel is the society and features writer for the St. Tammany Advocate. She can be contacted by email at