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WE’RE B-A-A-A-A-CK! LOUISIANA SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTS FOR 2020 AND 2021 …

by Doug Ireland

It’s been too long since the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame threw a three-day celebration in Natchitoches, so it’s about to happen twice in three months.

On the last weekends in June and August, 22 people will be inducted. First, the Class of 2020 finally gets enshrined June 24-26, and then August 26-28, the spotlight falls on the Class of 2021.

The schedules are the same for both Induction Celebrations. Thursday begins with a 3 p.m. press conference televised live on Cox Sports Television, not only around Louisiana but to markets in 17 other states, literally from coast-to-coast. The first public event is the La Capitol Kickoff Reception, free to all comers from 5-7 at the LSHOF museum, located at the traffic circle on Front Street. Music, food, refreshments and the chance to rub elbows with the inductees – while seeing their memorabilia on display in the world-class museum.

Friday’s slate is fun-filled. The BOM Bowling Bash takes place over lunchtime and into the afternoon, with the Rockin’ River Fest starting at 6 Friday evening on the downtown Natchitoches Beau Port Riverbank. It’s a four-hour free concert with fireworks, sponsored by Rapides Regional Medical Center.

There will be games for kids, food trucks and refreshments available. For patrons who want to enjoy an air-conditioned tent filled with two dozen food stations, there’s the VIP Taste of Tailgating.

The Bowling Bash will be held in Shreveport-Bossier June 25, and in Alexandria Aug. 27. That’s because three 2020 inductees – Sweet Lou Dunbar, Tim Brando and Kent Lowe – are Shreveport-area products. Brando still lives there. But on the last Friday in August, the LSHOF party comes to Four Seasons Bowling Center in Alexandria, where it was last hosted during the 2019 inductions.

There’s another free event Saturday morning, the LSHOF Junior Training Camp for boys and girls ages 8-16, from 9-11 a.m., at Northwestern’s Webb Wellness and Recreation Center and Turpin Stadium. Co-sponsored by the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office and Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, the event provides kids with skills instruction from Hall of Fame members and NSU coaches, along with free T-shirts and healthy-oriented treats and a meal. Advance registration is necessary at the LaSportsHall.com website as the camp has a 300-kid capacity.

The LSHOF Round Table Luncheon, presented by the Tiger Athletic Foundation, is a ticketed event Saturday from noon-1:30, with lively interviews of the inductees after a quality catered lunch.

The schedule culminates Saturday evening with the Induction Warmup Party from 5 o’clock to 6:45 at the museum, followed by the Induction Ceremony presented by State Farm Insurance Agents of Louisiana just 75 yards away, beginning promptly at 7 in the Natchitoches Events Center. Both are ticketed events, with heavy hors d’oeuvres and refreshments served at the museum in lieu of a dinner at the ceremony.

Reservations for the ticketed events – bowling, the VIP Taste of Tailgating tent, the luncheon and the induction festivities Saturday night – can be made online at LaSportsHall.com or by calling the LSHOF Foundation office at 318-238-4255. As noted above, those pathways also serve as registration points for the free Junior Training Camp.

As always, the induction classes are star-studded.

June’s 2020 inductees are headlined by the effervescent Dunbar, the Minden native who became clown prince of the Harlem Globetrotters; outdoorsman Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family; and eight-time Mr. Olympia, the world’s bodybuilding champion, Ronnie “The King” Coleman, a Bastrop native and former Grambling football player.

Charles “Peanut” Tillman, a Pro Bowl cornerback for his hometown Chicago Bears who played for the UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, joins two basketball stars – eight-year NBA performer Kerry Kittles from New Orleans, and Lady Techsters legend Angela Turner Johnson, who led Tech to four Final Fours and two national championships. And nobody will appreciate induction more than 94-year-old Mackie Freeze, a championship football coach at Monroe’s Richwood High School who was a baseball star at Grambling College, unbeaten on the mound for the Tigers before he went to major league training camp with Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Receiving the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award will be Opelousas native Joan Cronan, an LSU graduate who became athletics director at the University of Tennessee. Lowe, LSU’s basketball publicist, and Baton Rouge Advocate high school sports editor, Robin Fambrough, will be presented Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.

Brando, a national sports TV broadcaster since the mid-1980s who has worked for ESPN, CBS and Fox, is being given the inaugural Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Ambassador Award for his career achievements as well as his constant promotion of his home state.

The Class of 2021 in August has more iconic figures from state sports history, led by New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston, major league baseball All-Star Rickie Weeks of Southern University, and three LSU legends – football’s Glenn Dorsey, basketball’s Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (who played at LSU as Chris Jackson), and multiple NCAA track and field champion coach, Pat Henry.

Baton Rouge native Courtney Blades-Rodgers is one of the great softball pitchers in NCAA history. Villis “Bo” Dowden, a Natchitoches native, won the 1980 Bassmasters Classic to top his pro fishing resume.

NBC TV football officiating expert Terry McAulay, who worked four Super Bowls as an NFL referee, grew up in Hammond and graduated from LSU. He’s getting the 2021 Dixon Award.

Three journalists will be enshrined: New Orleans TV sportscaster Ro Brown, Baton Rouge Advocate sports writer Sheldon Mickels and Doug Ireland, the former Town Talk sports writer and Northwestern sports publicist who has been LSHOF chairman since 1990.

Don’t assume that after two inductions in three months, there will be a break for LSHOF Foundation CEO/President Ronnie Rantz, the former All-State pitcher for Menard’s Eagles before his own noteworthy LSU baseball career. A month after the August events, Rantz will host the LSHOF Foundation’s Fall Golf Classic at the University Club in Baton Rouge on Sept. 27.

Local businessman, Bart Schmolke, and Avoyelles Parish physician, Dr. L..J. Mayeux, the 2012 Dixon Award winner for his work with Ducks Unlimited, are local Foundation board members. Alexandria’s Greg O’Quin was the Foundation’s first board chairman, and Mayeux succeeded him.

For MORE Information Visit the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Website: https://lasportshall.com/

 

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