Last week was jam packed with fun, including getting to meet actress Renée Zellweger.
The star of the "Bridget Jones" films and "Jerry Maguire" joined organizers of the Louisiana International Film Festival on April 23 at Perkins Rowe to present the debut Dan Ireland Award for best film. Zellweger said the late Ireland, who had been the festival's artistic director since LIFF's inception, was her friend and mentor. The winning film was "Kill on Wheels," a Hungarian black comedy/action thriller about two physically disabled teens who team up with a wheelchair-bound hit man.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne brought greetings from the Governor's Office and presented Ireland's family with a token of the occasion. He was introduced by son John Dardenne, a comedian in Los Angeles who was serving as the festival's official host. Also returning home for the festival was Jamie Wax, who continues to split his time between Louisiana and the Big Apple, where he works for the "CBS Morning Show."
It all went to the dogs at the Companion Animal Alliance's sixth annual Fur Ball on April 22. This year's committee, led by Elizabeth Hammett, Margo Mathews and Matt Edwards, transformed one of the sound stages at Celtic Media into a posh setting where guests could show off their furry friends in style.
The night's finale was the presentation of the royal court and the crowning of the ball's king and queen — Lexie Polito's Prince, a bichon frise, and Kristen Spring's Labrador retriever Sissy. Rounding out the court were Princess Lady, Sherry Soileau's Shih Tzu; Prince Maxx, DeWayne Mercer's Doberman; Duke Odie, Daryl Ellis's bichon, and Duke Rolex Von Baren, George Fivgas's German shepherd; Earl Judge, Ellen Palmintier's goldendoodle; and Countess Rooney, Ashley Jenkins's spaniel mix.
On hand to witness the crowning was Louisiana's first dog, Lady, accompanied by her owners, Gov. John Bel and Donna Edwards; LSU System President F. King and Shennette Alexander; Mayor Sharon Weston and Marvin Broome; U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves; and Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and wife Cathy, who is on the alliance board. She was able to enlist Jay to serve as auctioneer for the night's live auction of a Pensacola, Florida, getaway and a Hunt Slonem bunny painting.
Board President Christel Slaughter shared the good news that the groundbreaking on the new shelter, housed on the LSU campus, will take this spring. It features a state-of-the-art vet clinic, disaster relief shelter and "welcoming" adoption center.
Downtown, 14 young professionals were in the spotlight April 22 for the Boys & Girls Club's debut Club BLUE Great Futures Gala at the Shaw Center for the Arts. Welcoming guests were gala Chairwoman Chelsey Blankenship and Co-chairwoman Lani Gholston, who explained the mission of Club BLUE is to raise awareness and resources for the Boys & Girls Club while encouraging young professionals to become leaders in service to their community.
The night's emcee, WAFB's Greg Meriwether, introduced the honorees: Rudy Comeaux, director of organizational development, The Lemoine Co.; Chad Cornett, vice president of commercial banking, Regions Bank; Sarah Cortell Vandersypen, owner, Philanthropic Partners; Eric Dexter, director of business development, Civil Solutions Consulting Group; Jesse Hoggard, vice president of marketing, Cellcontrol; Kali Johnson, director of organizational sustainability, MetroMorphosis; Makesha Judson, chief service officer, Office of Mayor President; Sunny Mayhall West, associate attorney, Breazeale Sachse & Wilson; William McGehee, founder/CEP, Tin Roof Brewing Co.; David Mullens, senior vice president, Capital One; Kristen Reeves, executive director, Louisiana Women in Technology; Brandon M. Smith, director of community and educational partnerships, LSU; Ben Vance, associate director, Postlethwaite & Netterville; and Lauren Westbrook, news anchor, WAFB-TV.
Assisting with the gala were committee members Ryan Allen, Joseph Cefalu, Brittany Ernest, Jordan Faircloth, Todd Hymel, Jennifer O'Connell and Dorothy Kemp.
On April 21, the pioneering careers of two very special friends were celebrated. Sailor Jackson and Valentina Wilson, along with Kerwin Fealing and Darrell Roberson, were honored by the Baton Rouge Area Association of Black Journalists at its fifth annual scholarship luncheon at Boudreaux's. Wilson, who was also the luncheon's featured speaker, is the news anchor at WCTI News Channel 12 in Greenville, North Carolina. She got her start here in Baton Rouge, first at WVLA as my intern, followed by a stint at WAFB and then back at WVLA as a reporter/anchor.
Sailor has an award-winning journalism career that spans 40-plus years, 13 of them at WBRZ, which is where I first met him. He left Channel 2 in 1992 and joined the Secretary of State's office, where he serves a special projects officer, deputy secretary of outreach services, director of film and video and director of communications. The room erupted in a standing ovation when his name was called out, leaving Sailor speechless for what is most likely the first time in his life.
Fealing is a 20-year veteran radio personality at WTQT 106.1 FM here in Baton Rouge, where he's known as "The Voice," and Roberson is an assistant professor in Southern University's Mass Communications department. He helped coordinate the first integrated ESPNU broadcast with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 2011.
To get everyone in the spirit for LSU Football's spring game, the Bengal Belles hosted its annual thank-you luncheon at the L'Auberge Event Center on April 20. Co-founder and President Aimée Simon welcomed guests and thanked long time sponsors and supporters over the past 20 years — LSU President F. King Alexander, Athletic Director Joe Alleva, Verge Ausberry, Mirian Segar, Alumni Association President Cliff Vannoy, Tiger Athletic Foundation President Rick Perry, LSU Academic Center for Student-Athletes officials Kenneth Miles and Walt Holiday, LSU Band officials Damon Talley and Rob Dowie and LSU Football staff member Ya'el Lofton. She also thanked Espe Moran, with the Shreveport Bengal Belles chapter, for its role in putting the Belles over the $1 million mark in financial support for the academic center.
The highlights of the afternoon were the pep rally speeches of new football coach Ed Orgeron and wife Kelly and the unveiling of a very special painting. Coach O endeared himself to every woman in the room when he told how he met his wife at the 1996 Liberty Bowl. The couple has fond memories of Memphis but both promised that's not where the Tigers will go bowling this season.
The mural-size painting done by former Tiger and artist Jack Jaubert was commissioned by the Belles in celebration of the booster club's 20th anniversary. It features outstanding student-athletes and others touched by this dedicated group of women football fans. Joining in the unveiling and sharing their favorite Bengal Belle memories and heartfelt thanks for how the Belles touched their lives were former Tigers Bradie James, Kevin Faulk, Marcus Randall, Craig Steltz, Gordy Rush and Ausberry; and current Tigers Christian LaCouture and KJ Malone.
Mockler Beverage Co. rolled out its welcome mat on April 20 for the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society's sixth annual CrawFête gourmet crawfish tasting and boiled crawfish competition. Celebrating all things crawfish is kind of like a rite of passage here in south Louisiana, and this year's mudbugs were quite tasty in the diverse recipes vying for the stainless boiling paddle. In a repeat win, chef Jeremy Langlois, of White Oak Plantation, had his Crawfish & Tuna Crudo declared the crowd's favorite. Second place went to Eusebio Gongora, of Southfin Southern Poké, for his Crawfish Wasabi Gras; and third to Rebecca Jacobs, of Blend Restaurant & Wine Bar, for her Crawfish Souffle.
Ivar's Sports Bar & Grill boiled up everyone's favorite pot of crawfish. C&M Crawfish came in second and Randy Montalbano's Seafood & Catering came in third.
Also taking part in the fun were Daniel Santana, Bin 77; Tracy Vincent, Chef Celeste Bistro; Cupcake Allie; Moses Chackson, Jess Nawlins Catering; Kelley McCann, Kalurah Street Grill; Joseph Dicapo, Latil's Landing; Barrett Meeks, Mansurs on the Boulevard; Jim Uridales, Mestizo Mexican Cuisine; Matthew Holt, Monjuni's; Scott Duplantis, Phil's Oyster Bar; Matthew Reed, Reed's Cakes & Catering; Chance Glover and Joey Faciane, SHUCKS!; Darrell Harris, Southern Fusion Catering; and boilers City Pork, Crawfish Town USA, Culinary Productions, Hot Tails Restaurant, Pit-n-Peel Restaurant and the Francis Southern Table.
Gourmet in the Garden
Over at LSU AgCenter's Botanic Gardens, 20 area restaurants and caterers were also vying for bragging rights at the April 20 Gourmet in the Garden, benefiting the education programs at the gardens and the Louisiana Culinary Institute Foundation.
When all was said and done, emerging as first-place winners were: Bistro Byronz, seafood category; Gov't Taco, non-seafood category; and BRQ, dessert. Judges were Cynthia Nobles, Cheramie Sonnier, Chad Sabadie and Jeremiah Rasco.
Gardens Executive Director Jeff Kuehny and the Rev. Trey Nelson judged the cocktail competition, picking Bin 77's tequila cocktail as the best. Attendees agreed with them, selecting it as their favorite libation, too. Bistro Byronz took home the People's Choice Award for best dish.
Also participating were Beausoleil, Cajun Culinary Roots, Chef Bennett Catering, Chef Charles House of Creations, Curbside Burgers, Donner Peltier, Duvic's, Kona Grill, Rank Wildcat Spirits, Rico Louisiana Latin Cocktails & Cuisine, Blue Rose Café & Bakery, The Overpass Merchant, The Velvet Cactus, Tiger Deaux-nuts and the catering and baking/pastry departments of Louisiana Culinary Institute.
In the middle of all this fun, I joined a congenial group of dedicated YMCA supporters in toasting President Bob Jacobs on his retirement after 35 years of service — the last 20 here in Baton Rouge. Debbie and Rickey Heroman opened their home for the celebration, which had Rickey and fellow former board chairmen Barry Blumberg, Edmund Giering, David Field and Anne Trappey joining current chairman Lance Kinchen in sharing tales of serving with Jacobs and thanking him for his dedication, vision and leadership. Adding their memories and thanks were former Mayor Kip Holden; former board member Ralph Bender; Y supporters Alex Lewis, Charlie Lamar and Eric Lane; and former staff member Pat Hanchey.
As a parting gift, the hosts, which included Norman Chenevert, Kathy Gill, Jerry Haralson, David Manship, Kevin Reilly, Bill Slaughter, Kerry Uffman, Blumberg, Giering, Field, Kinchen, Lamar, Lane, Lewis and Trappey, presented Bob with a golfing hat and a check for a new set of clubs or, as Rickey suggested, gas for the RV he and wife Debbie have bought after selling their home so they can travel and see the U.S.
Bob, Baton Rouge has been blessed to have you and Debbie as stewards of the Y for so long. We'll miss you both very much, and we all wish you the best as you begin the next journey of your lives. Thanks for the memories!