Covington to celebrate bicentennial

Sharon Nunez didn’t grow up in Covington, but she has a history with the place. She likes to tell the story of her grandfather, Ike Champagne, who took a freight train from Houma to Covington in 1908 to make his home here in the parish seat of St. Tammany.

Nunez remembers traveling across the lake from Norco to visit her grandparents, “And I thought, ‘One day, I’m going to live here.’ ”

Not only does Nunez live in Covington with her husband, Harry, but she is also one of the main movers behind the Covington Bicentennial Committee, which meets Thursday, Jan. 10, to continue planning big events for the city, which will turn 200 on July 4.

“I am very passionate about the bicentennial,” Nunez said, noting that her roots run deep here north of Lake Pontchartrain. Her grandfather was on the commission that built the Causeway, she said, “and my mother was the first person to cross the bridge.”

Nunez and her husband moved to Covington in 1985, just down the street from where her grandparents lived, “and we have been here ever since. It is the place to be. There is nothing I don’t like about Covington. There is always something to do,” she said, and you don’t have to go far to find family-friendly fun.

“It’s such a walkable town,” she said, noting that she can walk to the Covington trailhead, the Farmers Market, and the Sunset at the Landing concerts at the foot of Columbia Street. There’s also the Olympia parade that passes her house the Saturday before Mardi Gras.

“It’s a close-knit community,” she said, “with neighbors who look out for each other.”

The city was founded on July 4, 1813, by John Wharton Collins and was known as Wharton until the state Legislature renamed the town Covington in 1816.

The culmination of the bicentennial festivities will take place on July 4, according to Mayor Mike Cooper. “We have a lot of history to celebrate, and we look forward to celebrating in a fun, family fashion,” including the opening of a time capsule from 1963, when the city celebrated 150 years.

In addition to planning events, Cooper said, the city is getting ready for the celebration by making infrastructure improvements, “repairing sidewalks, streets and cleaning the ox-lots. We are also adding new planters downtown. We are preparing so that we have the city ready for the bicentennial.”

For instance, the Southern Hotel, a downtown fixture that has been vacant for some time, is being remodeled as a hotel and will be back in use by the fall. “That will be fantastic,” said Cooper, whose father, Ernest, also served as mayor.

Although Covington has many residents who have called this home for generations, there are also plenty of newcomers, and Cooper wants them to feel welcome. “They are part of our history, too,” he said.

Both newcomers and “old-timers” are invited to the Bicentennial Committee meeting Thursday at the Pitcher Junior High library, 415 S. Jefferson Ave., from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit the website at http://www.covla.com/bicentennial/index.php.

The committee has planned events such as a Keep Covington Beautiful Garden Symposium on Jan. 26 in Bogue Falaya Hall, 317 N. Jefferson, from 8:30 a.m. to noon. For information on that, call Jan Butler at (985) 892-7069. There will also be a garden walk, Whisperings from the Past, and more coming up.

The theme for the bicentennial, featured on banners throughout the city, is “Culture, Community, Character,” and that is what Covington has in spades, Nunez said. “This is what we love to call home.”

‘A Night in Haiti’

Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church, which has a sister parish in Dessources, Haiti (St. Benoit), will hold “A Night in Haiti” fundraiser and celebration of Haitian culture in its cafeteria, 1501 W. Causeway Approach in Mandeville, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

There will be Haitian music, food, beer and wine and silent auction items. Tickets are $25, and the funds will support ongoing projects at St. Benoit.

For more information, email mqphaiti@gmail.com or call Michael St. Germain at (985) 220-3249.

Karen Baker writes about people and events in St. Tammany Parish. Send information on news and events two weeks in advance to
sliceoftammany@gmail.com.