Republished with permission from Slidell Magazine.
Get ready! Louisiana’s first Umbrella Alley is coming to Olde Towne Slidell!
Named Antique Umbrella Alley, the vibrant art display consists of over 80 brightly colored umbrellas suspended over First Street in the Antique District of Olde Towne. The name “Antique Umbrella Alley” was chosen to denote the specific location of Slidell’s newest tourism attraction, as well as setting it apart from other Umbrella Alley’s across the globe. The 7.5 ft wide patio umbrellas with colors of red, orange, lime green, baby blue, lavender and navy blue will hang from suspension wires crossing the street at 10 foot intervals. Lighting will also be strung across the wires, making Slidell’s newest tourism attraction an enjoyable experience day or night!
The idea for Antique Umbrella Alley was born on a trip to Cartagena, Columbia, where Sophie Mauffray-Howell snapped a pic and sent it to her parents, Laura and Slidell Councilman Bill Borchert. The dynamic art display immediately piqued their interest. Searching the internet, they found Umbrella Alleys across the globe, each with their own individual, local flair.
Bill searched for a Slidell location that had the look and feel that would compliment the unique art project. Laura suggested the quaint streets of the Antique District, particularly First Street, where the narrow one-way street would lend to the ambiance of an umbrella “alley”.
“I loved the concept; but of course, funding is always the big question,” Bill noted. He showed cell phone pictures of umbrella alleys throughout the world to the shop owners in the Antique District to gauge their interest while he settled in for the long and uncertain wait for potential grant money.
“We knew we wanted it on our street as soon as we saw the photos,” Antique Association president Cindy Fisk says. The Slidell Historical Antique Association is a small, but mighty, group of businesses and individuals located in the Antique District of Olde Towne (Erlanger and First streets). The Association has two major events each year, the Fall and Spring Slidell Street Fairs. The fair is free to the public, with over 315 vendors paying booth fees for the weekend. With this revenue, in addition to dues paid by their members, the Antique Association had been actively looking for a large capital investment that would benefit the District by attracting more visitors and shoppers to the area.
The Antique Association offered to pay for the display and its construction, plus maintain the umbrellas in the future. Even with a price tag of more than $45,000, the decision was an easy one. “It’s an investment in the future and prosperity of our District and our members’ businesses,” Cindy says. “First Street will be a perfect spot for pictures. And, while people stroll down the streets, they’re more likely to stop and shop the businesses there. The increased foot traffic will be great for the businesses in the Olde Towne area, especially the Antique District. We’re grateful to the City of Slidell for making this dream a reality and our Association is proud to help bring this to Slidell.”
Mayor Greg Cromer has given his full and enthusiastic support to the project. “The addition of Antique Umbrella Alley to our historic Olde Towne area will bring even more visitors to Slidell. The umbrella display is not only a beautiful art piece, it’s an opportunity for the businesses in Olde Towne and beyond to get more customers and clients. It’s truly a win-win for everyone.”
The permanent display stretches down First Street from Erlanger Street to the triangle intersection of Front Street and Fremaux. The umbrellas will be visible day and night to the thousands of motorists traveling on Front Street and the visitors to Heritage Park, which makes the project even more appealing.
Councilwoman Leslie Denham, whose district includes Olde Towne, echoed the mayor’s sentiments. “It’s exciting to see this project coming to life. Olde Towne is the heart of Slidell and this gives people another reason to stroll, shop, dine and enjoy.”
A mural welcoming visitors to Antique Umbrella Alley is being painted by artist Matt Litchliter, creator of the Antique Umbrella Alley logo. Matt’s artwork has appeared on numerous Slidell Magazine covers and is probably most visibly seen on the iconic mural on Carey Street in Olde Towne. The mural will be placed on the side of the Lowry-Dunham, Case & Vivien Insurance building on the corner of Erlanger and First streets.
The Antique Association plans to work with the tourism centers in St. Tammany Parish, New Orleans, Mississippi and beyond to market our region’s one-of-a-kind display to attract more visitors to Slidell. A Facebook page is also being created to encourage visitors to post their pictures with the hashtag #AntiqueUmbrellaAlley. The possibilities are endless and the sky is the limit!
The official ribbon cutting of Antique Umbrella Alley is planned for Saturday, August 12, 2023. A brass band will lead a second-line (yes, with umbrellas!) down First Street to the ribbon cutting, which will kick off the annual City of Slidell celebration, White Linen & Lagniappe.
Mary Poppins and her famous umbrella, along with her fun-loving best friend, Bert, will be there, insuring a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious time for everyone!
Come join in the fun and help promote Slidell’s newest and most colorful attraction!