Old Arabi Neighborhood Association puts the unity in community

Sidney Torres III at the Ford Plant.

It was a memorable week for the Old Arabi Neighborhood Association as it hosted three community celebrations in a six-day period.

First up was the Sunset Sugar Soiree, held at the iconic Ford Motor Plant on the riverfront. This patron party and volunteer appreciation gathering was hosted by Sidney Torres III and the Torres Law Firm, the Ranch Film Studios, and a small group of investors who own the property, which was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The two-hour happy hour was also a celebration of local vendors and artists. Specialty cocktails from Whiskey Bayou and food from Chew Rouge and Cafe Aquarius set a festive vibe to the proceedings, as did ragtime tunes provided by local musician David Hennessy.

Torres said he enjoyed hosting the soiree and sharing some of the history of the structure with his neighbors and friends.  “When Henry Ford completed construction of the assembly plant in 1923, he was rolling out 300 Model T’s a day right here in St. Bernard, with a workforce of 1,000 people,” Torres explained. “The 227,000 square feet structure was designed by the legendary architect Albert Kahn and is situated on 27 acres with 800 feet of river frontage and rail access. I am pleased to play a part in preserving this iconic building, which is an important part of American history.”

Then on Saturday, October 13, OANA hosted its 10th Annual Sugar Fest at the Aycock Barn in Old Arabi. Great weather, food, and music also brought a great crowd. The trolley for narrated tours by historian Bill Hyland was at capacity throughout the day as guests toured the cultural arts district. The baking and donut-eating contests had great participation, too. Party-goers also enjoyed seeing the big LSU victory over Georgia, which made the afternoon even sweeter. Christian Serpas, one of the performers for the day, called the event “first class and a blast.”

And finally, OANA hosted its annual Night Out Against Crime. Held at Arabi Food Store, this social brought friends and neighbors together for an evening of food and fellowship. Special guests for the evening included Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann, Parish President Guy McInnis, and Councilman Gillis McCloskey. The message for the evening: LOCK YOUR CARS. The Sheriff and several of his officers stressed the importance of locking vehicles to deter theft.   

Barry Lemoine, OANA President, said it was a busy, tiring, but incredible week for the organization.

“So many people worked so hard to make this week such a special one,” Lemoine said.  “Thank you to all of our volunteers and friends who shared their time, talent, and energy with us to promote all of the good things in our area. You truly show that you Love Thy Neighborhood.”

Lemoine was also quick to credit the OANA Board Members who worked tirelessly to bring the soiree and Sugar Fest  to life: Troy and Alison Barrios, Linda Van Aman, Sal Cusimano, Ray Lauga, and Jenifer Heintz, as well as Sugar Fest committee members Arlette Lauga, Katherine Lemoine, Maegan Dobson, Frank Crifasi, Georgia Rilette, Susan and Mason Green, Shelly and Walter Gifford, Patrice Cusimano, and Irene Sage.

Lemoine also thanked all of the sponsors and patrons for their support, especially Domino Sugar and the Meraux Foundation, who have been partners with OANA for a decade.

“There are so many people to thank – from the Office of Tourism and Parish Government to all of those folks who spent some time with us in Old Arabi. We appreciate everything that you have done to help make our events so successful. OANA Board member Kelly McCartney and our friend and business partner Max Landry also deserve credit for planning Night Out Against Crime.”

Lemoine said he and his fellow OANA crew will take a much-needed break for a few weeks before gearing up for its next event – the November 15th Sippin’ In The Sunset.

“We invite you all to get some early holiday shopping done and enjoy the fun at our next Sippin’, which we’re calling ThanksSipping.”

Sugar Fest honorees (from left: Tom Braniff, Faith Moran & Ray Lauga, with OANA President Barry Lemoine)

OANA member volunteers Susan Green, Linda Van Aman, Sal Cusimano and Mason Green.

Sugar Fest organizers Ray Lauga and Maegan Dobson.

St. Bernard Deputies at Night Out Against Crime.