Karen Baker “Slice of St. Tammany” column for Jan. 31, 2013

“This isn’t Mandeville.”

That could mean different things to different people. For instance, I was at a fast-food restaurant in Metairie when I left my phone on the table and headed to the counter to pick up my food. My friend looked at me and said, “This isn’t Mandeville.” (For the record, I do not suggest that you leave expensive items unattended in the eateries of Mandeville.)

For the people of Abita Springs, “This isn’t Mandeville” means something different. It’s not that the people of Abita have anything against their neighbors to the south. It’s just that the residents of Abita Springs delight in their uniqueness. It is an artsy little town; it has a traffic circle instead of stop lights, a gazebo, an Opry, a whole-town garage sale and an eccentric Christmas wreath auction.

And, alas, Abita Springs has the Push Mow parade, which rolls Saturday at 11 a.m. with the theme, “We aren’t Mandeville.”

“It’s a common expression around here,” said John Preble, whose wife, the late artist Ann O’Brien, started Push Mow several years ago. “No one really knows exactly when,” Preble said, maintaining the mysterious Abita ambiance.

“Push Mow has always been about the themes,” said Preble, who is organizing the parade this year. “We always want themes that Eve (a Mandeville parade, which rolls Friday at 7 p.m.) wouldn’t do. We don’t want to be bland and generic.”

In keeping with the “We’re not Mandeville” theme, Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere will ride in Push Mow. “He’s real smart, taking the high road,” Preble said, adding that Covington Mayor Mike Cooper will also ride. “I saw him at Office Depot, and he said, ‘I want to ride, too.’”

So, in keeping with the extremely formal Push Mow process, Preble said: “Sure; you just need to bring your own car.”

To join the parade of mayors, Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons will also be part of the festivities. The parade lines up on La. 36 at the trailhead near the Abita Brew Pub, heads down Level Street, turns on Magnolia, and comes back up Main Street.

Another feature of Push Mow is the Citizen of the Year, who is spotlighted in the parade. This year’s Citizen is Bryan Gowland, a former mayor and longtime teacher who oversees the Opry and is very involved with the Abita Springs Museum.

“A group of former Citizens of the Year made the selection,” Gowland said. “I am honored and flattered. Those who made the selection are people I look up to and admire. I am happy to be a part of that fraternity.”

Gowland will ride in a friend’s 1964 Chevy convertible, with his two granddaughters by his side.

After the parade, the Citizen of the Year and his many friends will celebrate at the trailhead, with food, drinks and live music. All are welcome.

In the more than 40 years he has lived in Abita Springs, serving as mayor from 1990 to 2002 and teaching from 1969 to 2002, Gowland said he has received as much as he has given. “I have made so many friends,” he said.

He hopes to see all his friends out at Push Mow. He also wants to remind them the Opry season will start on March 16, and Abita Springs will celebrate Earth Day on March 17. But first and foremost, Abita Springs is getting ready for its Mardi Gras party. In its own unique way.

Krewe of Olympia

The Krewe of Olympia will roll in Covington on Saturday at 6 p.m., starting at the courthouse. Covington Mayor Mike Cooper will serve as grand marshal.

Mardi Gras Mambo at SSA

St. Scholastica Academy will host its annual Mardi Gras Mambo during the Olympia parade in Covington on Feb. 2, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the campus at the corner of Boston and Massachusetts in downtown Covington. There will be music, food, bathroom accessibility and security on duty.

Bathroom wristbands available for purchase at check-in. For more information, call (985) 892-2540, Ext. 140.

Slidell police get into Bowl

With Super Bowl XLVII headed to New Orleans, the NFL has authorized a commemorative police badge. The badges were available for police agencies that were approved by New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

The badges were purchased by the officers for $94 and are numbered for tracking purposes. Slidell Chief Randy Smith has authorized the wearing of the commemorative badge until Feb. 12.

The Slidell Police Department will also assist the New Orleans Police Department on Super Bowl Sunday with security before, during and after the game.

“I am very excited about being able to take part in such a large national event and look forward to being able to showcase the professional men and women of the Slidell Police Department as they assist with this widely watched event,” Smith said.

Bicentennial Quilt displayed

The Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt, “Stitch by Stitch, Binding Together 200 Years of Louisiana History,” is on display for observation at the Justice Center in Covington, 701 N. Columbia St., through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 4:40 p.m.

The St. Tammany Commission on Cultural Affairs is hosting the quilt, referred to as a “story in stitchery,” and a symbol of Louisiana’s Bicentennial Birthday celebrated in 2012.

Each square of the quilt, measuring 9 ½ feet wide by 10 ½ feet long, represents one of the 64 parishes in Louisiana. An expert needlewoman from each parish was asked to design and create each square.

On the back of each square, parish officials were invited to leave their signatures. Louisiana’s state colors of blue, gold and white border the quilt.

Redfish Base meets

The members and guests (active and/or retired submariners) of the Redfish Base will meet Saturday at noon at the American Legion Post No. 185, 1680 St. Ann Place, Slidell.

Items on the agenda are the upcoming dedication of the Golet Torpedo Memorial in Metairie and reception, election of officers and the raffle.

Lunch will be served for $10 per person.

Contact Gisela Sorjonen, secretary, for information at (985) 643-9878.

Karen Baker covers St. Tammany people and places for The Advocate. Contact her at sliceoftammany@gmail.com.