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Leadership Tangipahoa

Press Releases

Date Press Release

Amanda Bennett, Abigail Comeau and Kellie Wheat's Letter to the Editor on the Hidden Treasures Session

For Immediate Release:                                                       11/28/18
Contact:                                                                              Nick Clesi

Amanda Bennett, Abigail Comeau and Kellie Wheat's Letter to the Editor on the Hidden Treasures Session

Back row left to right: Mark Verbois-Theta Xi Alumni Association, Brian Walker-Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation, Amy Brumfield, Jason Wilson-First Guaranty Bank, Edward Hebert-Southeastern Louisiana University, Amanda Bennett-PJ's Coffee Owner & Re/Max Select Realtor, Alvon Brumfield, Kristie Hebert-Enmon Enterprises, LLC & Jani King, Jeffery Jarreau-North Oaks Health System, D'Ann Davis - Louisiana Children's Discovery Center, Kyle Johnson-Pelican State Credit Union, Nick Gagliano-Leadership Tangipahoa Facilitator

Front row left to right: Roslyn Varnado-Tangipahoa Parish School System, Myra Sharpe-Solom Episcopal Conference Center & Amite Chamber of Commerce, Abigail Comeau-Holly & Smith Architects, Kellie Wheat-Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce, Ashley LeSaicherre-Re/Max Select, Mandy Lee-First Guaranty Bank, Sibyl Cannon-Tangipahoa Parish Tourism, Angelia Beadle-Tangipahoa Parish Government, Kristen Pecararo-Clerk of Council, Erica Kelt-Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Kathryn Edwards-Edwards & Stevens Law Firm  

Dear Editor,

The Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2019 met on Tuesday, November 13 to explore the "Hidden Treasures" of Tangipahoa Parish. The "Hidden Treasures" session was sponsored by Tangi Tourism and was a day dedicated to learning all about the exciting activities our parish has to offer both tourists and residents alike. 

Our day began at the Tangipahoa Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau on Wardline Road in Hammond with an overview of Tangi Tourism by Director of Sales, Emily Matise. Tangi Tourism's mission is to bring people to Tangipahoa parish by highlighting the parish's unique attractions such as places to go, things to do, restaurants, events, shopping, and accommodations. They also facilitate meetings, groups, sporting events, and filming in the parish. The Tangi Tourism Bureau helped facilitate the filming of many movies and series including The Highwayman, NCSI New Orleans, and The Green Book which is currently in theaters.  They operate from a four percent parish occupancy tax and are manned by eight board members and eleven employees. These individuals are passionate about creating an experience for visitors that leaves them wanting to come back. Tangi Tourism is also a great resource for local residents since they promote our community's interests and businesses, strengthening economic vitality. One idea was to coordinate with SLU orientation to give tours to parents and students and let them experience what Tangipahoa has to offer in hopes that they spend more time and money in the parish. A calendar of events can be found on the Tangi Tourism website. Currently Tangi Tourism employees are most excited about planning festivities for the upcoming year as Tangipahoa Parish will be celebrating its 150-year anniversary!  

Next, the class traveled to Southeastern's library to hear from Dr. Samuel C. Hyde, local professor, author, and film producer. Dr. Hyde is SLU's Director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies.

He gave an exhilarating lecture about the early developments of our region. He has authored many books including "Pistols & Politics," in which he discusses Tangipahoa parish's early history and offers explanation for our local culture and embedded roots. He has become a source of knowledge and a resource for people across the United States who regularly consult with him on Louisiana history and culture.

The third treasure the class traveled to was the Louisiana Renaissance Festival in Hammond. This Renaissance Festival is one of 120 in the U.S. and was brought to Louisiana by local resident, Alvon Brumfield in the year 2000. CEO and Founder, Alvon, gave us a tour and history of this local jewel amongst thousands of high school students visiting from as many as seven surrounding states. The festival is set in 1565 in the Queen Elizabeth Era amongst the "Village of Albright."  It is a twenty-acre property filled with more than 600 artisans, entertainers, and educational demonstrators. The festival encompasses a theme park, theater, holiday shopping, and educational experiences. Some activities include blacksmithing, glass blowing, stone bread baking, archery, hair braiding, and music lessons.  The festival is held annually, beginning the first weekend in November and continuing through mid-December. It is a local attraction that draws in several thousand attendees annually, only approximately 10-15% whom are locals. 

The fourth treasure we visited was Covey Rise in Husser, LA. Covey Rise is a two-part business with an operational farm on 80 acres plus a full-service hunting experience, gun club, and lodge. The farm, operated by Grady Seal, specializes in growing fresh vegetables selling to 160 high-end restaurants, most of which are in New Orleans. The vegetables are picked weekly, loaded on produce trucks, and delivered to restaurants where chefs will hand pick fresh vegetables for their seasonal dishes. Some of these vegetables include kale, collard greens, brussel sprouts, cilantro, squash, and cucumbers. The hunting lodge sleeps about 18 people. Hunts are guided on the additional 1,000 acres where you can find quail, chuckers, pheasant, and mallards among other things. The name "Covey Rise" comes from a group of quail, also called a covey. During the hunting off season the lodge hosts summer youth camps, offering educational experiences where young individuals are taught hunters' education, shooting, trapping, etc. Covey Rise is a great place for corporations to host retreats where they can take advantage of its beautiful grounds, amenities, and meeting spaces.

The fifth treasure the class visited was Rise Escape Room located in Tickfaw, LA. Rise is a family owned and operated attraction, which includes a haunted house and other themed adventures during the Halloween season. The escape rooms are like movie sets, and players are dropped in with a storyline and set of clues to figure their way out. The interactive game lasts about 60 minutes and game moderators can help you if you get stumped. They create all the games themselves and often sell the games to others in the escape room industry. Rise currently has 4 rooms to choose from, and they have plans to add more rooms in the future. They host corporate events, birthday parties, and family nights out accommodating 4 to 8 players. In 2018, Rise Escape Room ranked 8th out of the top 10 escape rooms in the United Stated according to USA Today.

The sixth treasure we visited was Gnarly Barley Brewery, owned and operated by Zac and Cari Caramonta, who were both born and raised in Southeast Louisiana. Zac and Cari graduated from SLU where they first met. In 2014 they opened a 14,000 square foot facility in Hammond, LA which includes an open-air tap room with a view of the brewing area. They are currently producing 9,000 barrels a year and are predicting a growth to 15,000 barrels. Gnarly Barley received the 2017 Louisiana Lantern Award for demonstrating excellence in manufacturing and outstanding service to their community. The brewery was also named by The Brewers Association to be among the top 50 fastest growing breweries in 2017.

At the end of the day, Nick Gagliano gathered the class together to reflect on the highlights and overall themes of the day.  The highlight that was discussed from our day of "Hidden Treasures" was the realization of just how much there is to do right here in Tangipahoa Parish!  Oftentimes, we like to get away to find fun and exciting things to do.  However, this day showed us how fun it is to be tourists in our own town! 

In addition, the takeaway from the day was this - many of the people we visited were small business owners who started off with an idea, an interest, or a passion and then worked hard (oftentimes with the help of a friend or family member) to turn their vision into reality.  It was an excellent reminder that we too can accomplish anything that we set out to do.  We just have to begin with a dream!

Finally, we would like to thank our generous sponsors, Holly & Smith Architects, Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce, and Amanda Bennett for her personal sponsorship. Together, we are gracious for the tremendous experience of participating in Leadership Tangipahoa, which allows us to learn about and discover all things Tangipahoa! 

Amanda Bennett, Abigail Comeau, and Kellie Wheat
Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2019

Amanda Bennett
Realtor with RE/MAX Select
Owner of PJ's Coffee on SW Railroad Hammond

Amanda Bennett has been the owner and operator of PJ's Coffee on SW Railroad for over 11 years and is a Realtor with RE/Max Select in Hammond. She stays active in the community with her role as a board member in the Hammond Rotary club and 2019 Chairperson for Shamrock Run. She also enjoys shaking it up as a member of the Mande Milkshakers, a philanthropic dance krewe out of Mandeville.


Abigail Marie Kiley Comeau
Architectural Intern
Holly & Smith Architects, APAC

Abigail Comeau is an architectural intern at Holly & Smith Architects in Hammond, LA.  As a Lafayette native, she received her undergraduate and master's degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Upon graduating, Abigail moved to Hammond and has been a resident for over four years along with her husband and their three pets.  Abigail enjoys spending time in nature, traveling, reading, and writing.

Kellie Wheat
Veterinary Practice Manager
Animal Care Center and Pet Care Center

Kellie Wheat is a Veterinary Practice Manager at Animal Care Center in Hammond, LA and Pet Care Center in Ponchatoula, LA. She is a current associate to the board for the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce Marketing Committee. She is a life-long resident of Ponchatoula and graduate of Ponchatoula High School. She received her Bachelor of Science from Louisiana State University, majoring in Animal, Dairy, and Poultry Sciences and minoring in Communication Studies.