Kiss Me!
by: Katie Wainwright

Shamrocks and parades dominate the northshore on Saint Patrick's Day. From Slidell to Ponchatoula, the Irish are ready to roll and have fun.

Slidell

Brad Champagne, chairman of this year's Slidell community parade, says it will be bigger and better than ever. A dance and march competition is featured; entries are taken through February. The full-sized floats are decorated with lots of green and plenty of imagination. The parade starts at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 17.

Slidell also has a boat parade. For the past five years, the Krewe of Bilge, an informal organization of boat owners, has gathered a festive flotilla and cruised through Eden Isles. Rodney Nunez is krewe captain.
"The Krewe of Bilge will probably be on Saturday," says Barbara Nunez. "So we don't interfere with the regular parade. We throw potatoes, cabbages, and green beads and everybody has a lot of fun. We normally have twenty or more boats. Anybody with a boat can join us."

Covington

Pat Gallagher, owner of Gallagher's Restaurant & Bar, started the Covington St. Patrick's Day parade five years ago as a spontaneous gathering of friends. "A dozen of us got together and had breakfast here at the restaurant," Gallagher says, as he takes a few minutes from the busy lunch crowd to recall the parade's beginnings. "Then we went downtown and marched from one pub to another, having a good time." Photos of the good times are framed on the wall of his restaurant's bar. Every year a new collection is added to the expanding gallery. "After five years, I'm passing the torch," says Gallagher. "Steve Ahrons of the Tap Room is in charge this year."

The parade of an estimated 150 "Irish" will be held on Friday, March 15. "It's a big block party," says Ahrons. "We have two grand marshals. We'll start at the Tap Room with Bloody Marys, Mimosas, screwdrivers, grits and eggs, then go from there." The marching club stops at Acme Oyster House, Boston Pub, Tugy's, and Judice's.

Ponchatoula

Ponchatoula goes all-out for its Saint Patrick's Day parade. The Krewe of Erin is in its 18th year "and getting better all the time," says Bryan McMahon. The krewe was started by Bryan, his brother Terrence, Buddy Dufreche, and Stanley Cowan. People from all over Louisiana come to take part.

No motorized vehicles are allowed. The floats are decorated grocery carts. "Everybody walks. Even our queen walks. It's very musical, with lots of bands," McMahon says. The participants throw cabbages, potatoes and green beads.

The day ends with a Ceili, an Irish dance party. McMahon notes, "We make an all-day affair out of our Saint Patrick's Day, with lots of Irish food and music. The New Orleans School of Irish Dance entertained us last year."

An essay contest is held and the winner is named queen. "Celtic Clans, Ancestry and Families" is the theme of the 2002 essay, art and poetry competition. University scholars specializing in Irish literature judge the essays. This tradition has never failed to produce a court of inner and outer beauty.

This year's parade, on Saturday, March 16, will honor the memory of the late Dr. Charles Gideon, former mayor of Ponchatoula.

If you'd like more information or want to join the fun call:

Slidell downtown parade:
Brad Champagne, 643-3151

Slidell Krewe of Bilge:
Rodney Nunez, 643-6680

Covington:
Steve Ahrons, 898-0899

Ponchatoula parade:
Bryan McMahon, 386-2877

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Inside Northside Magazine, St. Tammany Parish Louisiana and the Northshore's regional guide to community events in Covington, Mandeville, Hammond, Abita Springs and Slidell in the New Orleans area with art galleries, clothing, health, antiques, shopping