Its theme was "Linking Learning to Life Through Multi-Sensory Experiences." The reason for the event was simple: St. Tammany is a fast-growing parish, but one that is rich in culture, history and folklife. "With the expansion and growth taking place today, more attention is now being focused on maintaining a balance between the thick pine forests and the fresh ozone air contrasted against the rise of buildings and new shopping centers."
The "Our Heritage Celebration" in 1993-1994 was a major curriculum project involving 30,000 students in 43 different schools, with an emphasis on developing a sense of self-identity, research and writing skills, and creating a curiosity and excitement about history.
The year was culminated by a two-day festival of old fashioned arts and crafts, pioneer skills, and history appreciation for the children of St. Tammany Parish. Activities included doll-making from corn husks, weaving, water color techniques, local culture exhibits, storytelling, music, drama and dance. There were performances by area musicians and choirs, cooking demonstrations, and presentations on blacksmithing, quilting, boatmaking, chair caning, pottery, woodworking, etc.
A number of art exhibits featured photographs, paintings, pottery and jewelry, along with seminars on a variety of topics given by regional historians.
It was held every four years by the public school system, usually at the parish fairgrounds in Covington, with hundreds of school students brought in by bus to learn about the way life used to be, by viewing exhibits, by talking to community elders, and even by dressing in costumes.
A major feature of the event was the collection of "oral histories," where students fanned out across their home communities and talked to (and tape recorded) interviews with the folks who lived in St. Tammany Parish when it was still young and unsure of its direction.
Local bands playing old-style music were on stage most of the day, and talks about history were given by Dr. Allen Saltus, "Maritime Archaeology on the Tchefuncte;" the Northlake Museum and Nature Center; Dr. Howard Nichols "St. Tammany Homes and Gardens;" the National Wetlands Research Center; Mayor Keith Villere of Covington "Wildflowers of St. Tammany;" and Lavergne Kilgore "Appreciating St. Tammany's Multi-cultural Heritage."
The "Our Heritage Celebration" was held a few times, but was eventually phased out as other year-long history recognition efforts were set up in the schools. Although it was a lot of fun and gave students new opportunities to make friends, old and young, across the parish, putting the event together proved to be quite a challenge as the years went by.
Special guest speaker for the April 19, 1986, program was C. Howard Nichols, Southeastern Louisiana University Professor of History, who spoke on "St. Tammany, A Look Back."
that year, in November, I was a guest speaker for the opening
ceremonies at the Our Heritage Celebration Museum in 1986, due primarily
to my work with the St. Tammany Historical Society and other community
history projects in which I had been involved.
Giving that presentation was a great experience, so much so that I felt I had to share with the School Board, at its next meeting, what a great investment the "Our Heritage Celebration" was in the building and encouragement of upcoming St. Tammany citizens.
Here is the text of my presentation to the School Board about the impact of the celebration.
Click on the images below to enlarge the view.