March 21, 2002 - Strawberry Jam

The 31st annual Strawberry Festival is still three weeks off, but the city of Ponchatoula is warming up this weekend with the second edition of its newest gala.

"Zab's Kidz" -- that's the affectionate nickname of the talented youngsters I found at Ponchatoula High School. They get their name from art teacher Kim Zabbia. Their mission is life is to go around downtown Ponchatoula, find hum-drum spots, and jazz them up with a little bit of art.

I came across "Zab's Kidz" working on their 8-by-72-foot mural entitled "Ponchatoula Celebrates the Arts." It will be unveiled Saturday morning as Ponchatoula celebrates its second annual Strawberry Jam 'N' Toast to the Arts.

Spokesperson Mary Scandurro explains, "We'll have bands all over the downtown area, food from non-profit organizations here. We're going to have everything from classics to zydeco to country. I want everybody to bring their kids. It's going to be a family affair."

There will be 68 bands in all, and all this music and art will raise money for the North Shore Regional Endowment for the Arts, which, according to Mary, will "help showcase young musicians and eventually to teach young children music. Maybe young children that didn't have access to music lessons before will be able to get lessons. Eventually they'll have a museum."

Saturday Morning Ponchatoula native Irma Thomas, now known as the Soul Queen of New Orleans, will get a lifetime achievement award. For a complete listing of bands and times please visit