Karen Baker’s ‘Slice of St. Tammany’ column for Feb. 7, 2013

Photo provided by DIVA -- Pictured at 2012 DIVA day, from left, are Laura Gremillion, Amy Norval, Madison Kuhn, Emma Villere, Erica Mahoney and Alyssa Vicari. Show caption
Photo provided by DIVA -- Pictured at 2012 DIVA day, from left, are Laura Gremillion, Amy Norval, Madison Kuhn, Emma Villere, Erica Mahoney and Alyssa Vicari.

For the 12th year in a row, a group of women, mostly from St. Tammany Parish, will don beaded, handmade bustiers and promenade down Bourbon Street on Friday, all in the name of good fun and a great passion for protecting life’s endangered pleasures.

Each year, on the Friday before Mardi Gras, the DIVAs, or Divine Protectors of Endangered Pleasures, gather on the balcony at Arnaud’s Restaurant, where they can be admired by all from Bourbon Street.

At 1:15 p.m., they begin their promenade up Bourbon through the courtyard at Pat O’Briens and back down Royal to return to their balcony. Accompanied by their royal consorts, known as the Elvi, and the Riverside Ramblers jazz band, the women revel in letting their hair down at least once a year.

“This is very different from my everyday life,” said Divine Instigator Carol Miles, who likens her title to that of a parade captain. “It’s a wonderful project.”

And it’s family fun, too, she said. “My husband’s creative influence makes it a true partnership.”

Miles said the Divine Protectors of Endangered Pleasures was established at a lunch at Arnaud’s Restaurant in 2002, with what was to become an annual promenade on Bourbon and Royal streets in beaded costumes. The beaded bustier, which must be handmade, is a prerequisite for membership in the Divine Protectors.

There are 100 official members, Miles said. “It is an extended sisterhood. We have beading circles, like the old quilting circles. We get the opportunity to get to know friends’ friends and meet new people.”

Miles, a clinical social worker who teaches at Tulane University and lives in Covington, said her daughter, Emma, has joined the DIVAs and brought some friends along, which is a treat. “Seeing it passed on to the next generation, that makes me happy. And Emma loves it.”

The DIVAs start their day at 10:30 a.m. on the balcony at Arnaud’s, then enjoy a luncheon, at which time all the DIVAS get to show off their costumes.

That is followed by the promenade, then back to Arnaud’s for dessert. “Women from all over the country have joined,” Miles said, but she gives “credit where credit is due,” to her late sister-in-law Denise Centola, who was inspired to turn a bustier into a work of art and then wear her work of art out to lunch on the Friday before Mardi Gras.

“We went to Arnaud’s and it was a hoot,” Miles said. The small lunch has grown to the big deal on the balcony.

“We became a fixture” on the Carnival calendar, Miles said. Although the group will not grow larger than 100, she said, there have been several spinoff groups. Which is good news — because divine pleasures need all the protection they can get!

For more information, visit http://www.divineprotectors.org.

Parading in St. Tammany

In addition to Divine Pleasures on Bourbon, some parades are coming up in St. Tammany, such as:

Friday: The Krewe of Selene will follow the traditional Slidell route, starting at 6:30 p.m., with the theme “Our Naughty Boys.”

Saturday: Bush will have its family-friendly parade starting at 9 a.m. on La. 40.

Sunday: The colorful boats-only Krewe of Tchefuncte cruises the Tchefuncte River, starting at Salty’s Marina in Madisonville, then heads downriver and turns around to dock on both the north and south sides of the La. 22 bridge. King Neptune’s Marching Society precedes the boat parade by marching down Water Street to the reviewing stand. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Louisiana’s Legends.”

Mardi Gras: The Krewe of Lyra, which traditionally paraded after Orpheus in Mandeville, will follow the Covington Lions Club and the Krewe of Covington. It all starts at 10 a.m. at the Parish Courthouse on Jefferson Avenue and Columbia Street and then winds through downtown Covington.

In Lacombe, the Krewe of Chahta-Ima parades at 1 p.m. The parade follows U.S. 190 north to 17th Street and ends at Lacombe Nursing Home.

Folsom enjoys Mardi Gras with the Krewe of Folsom, rolling at 2 p.m. This eclectic krewe invites the public to participate in its parade. Entry fees, ranging from $15 to $35, are collected based on the type of vehicle used in the parade. Register at http://www.villageoffolsom.com or call Town Hall at (985) 796-5607. The parade starts on La. 40 near Olive Street.

Slidell’s Got Talent

Slidell is working with the producers of America’s Got Talent and several local organizations to offer special VIP audition opportunities (express line passes) for the upcoming New Orleans auditions Feb. 15 and 16.

Visit Slidell’s Facebook page for updates as they become available: https://www.facebook.com/pages/City-of-Slidell-Louisiana-Municipal-News.

Keep Mandeville Beautiful

In an effort to reach out to school-age students and educate them on the importance of not littering, Keep Mandeville Beautiful is kicking off two anti-litter contests; one aimed at students in kindergarten to third grade and the second contest for fourth- through 12th-grade students.

A copy of the rules and entry requirements can be found at Mandeville schools or by contacting KMB at kmb@cityofmandeville.com. Artwork may be dropped off or mailed to Keep Mandeville Beautiful at 1100 Mandeville High Blvd. Mandeville, LA 70471.

Karen Baker writes about people and events in St. Tammany Parish. She can be reached at sliceoftammany@gmail.com.