LAFAYETTE – The artwork of Sarah Ahrens, a 17-year-old student at St. Thomas More High School, will be showcased on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., for the next year.

Ahrens’ piece, titled Shades of Autumn – an oil painting depicting the different colors of fall foliage – won first place for Louisiana’s 7th Congressional District in the 30th Annual Congressional High School Art Competition.

Manned by Rep. Charles Boustany, Louisiana’s 7th Congressional District spans from just east of Opelousas to the western state line.

The painting will hang in a hallway connecting the U.S. House of Representatives to the U.S. Capitol.

Ahrens, along with 435 young artists from across the country, will travel to Washington, D.C., for a reception honoring those whose work was selected for display.

Court Says Tony Must Go
GROSSE TETE – A state judge granted an injunction that will prevent truck stop owner Michael Sandlin from renewing his license allowing him to keep a Bengal tiger on his premises. For years, motorists traveling along Interstate 10 have stopped at Sandlin’s Tiger Truck Stop to see Tony, the owner’s 550-pound pet that was caged near the pumps.

At its peak, the Tiger Truck Stop once housed six tigers. In 2006, the Louisiana Legislature passed a new law prohibiting citizens from owning such exotic animals, but since Sandlin possessed Tony prior to the law, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries grandfathered him a permit.

An Oregon-based animal rights group brought a lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries seeking Tony’s release, claiming Sandlin’s ownership violated an earlier ordinance prohibiting exotic animal ownership in Iberville Parish.

Sandlin has the option to appeal the ruling. Should he choose not to, Sandlin will have to surrender the tiger in December 2011 when his current permit expires. If that happens, it is unclear where Tony will be housed.

New Research Vessel Will Help Study Oysters
THIBODAUX – On April 20, university officials and family members of the namesake ceremonially christened Nicholls State University’s new research vessel, the Burt Wilson.

The vessel – which will be used to conduct a survey of oyster beds in the Barataria-Terrebonne estuaries – was proposed by BP officials who have partnered with Dr. Marilyn Kilgen, the head of Nicholls’ Institute for Seafood Studies. BP donated more than $350,000 toward the project, including the purchase of the 25-foot research vessel.

Nicholls faculty involved in the study include Kilgen; Dr. Ramaraj Boopathy and Dr. Earl Melancon, distinguished service professors of biological sciences; Angela Corbin, instructor of biological sciences; Dr. Balaji Ramachandran, interim department head of applied sciences; and Dr. Quenton Fontenot, associate professor of biological sciences and coordinator of the marine and environmental biology graduate program.

At Melancon’s initial suggestion, the new vessel is named after Samuel Burton “Burt” Wilson III, the late Nicholls faculty member who pioneered marine biology research in the Department of Biological Sciences. Wilson secured the department’s first marine biology research grant in 1966 from the Louisiana Science Foundation for a project titled Ecological Survey of Penaeid Shrimp of the Central Louisiana Gulf Coast and Estuarine Waters.

UL Band Will March at Macy’s Parade
LAFAYETTE – The UL Marching Band, The Pride of Acadiana, has been invited to march in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. The parade is watched annually by 3.5 million live spectators and another 50 million who tune in on television.

“It is exciting for the sound of the Ragin’ Cajuns to ring out in New York City,” says UL Band Director Brian Taylor. “Our students always work very hard, and this honor is recognition of that spirit of hard work and dedication they bring to each performance. For me, the Macy’s Parade is so connected with our culture and Thanksgiving. Almost every household has the parade playing on that morning. For our students to be a part of this spectacle is truly amazing.”

The UL band is one of 11 bands that will march in the 2012 parade. This is only the second time in the band’s existence that it’s been invited to perform at the Macy’s parade.

Coach Beryl Shipley Dies of Cancer
LAFAYETTE – Beryl Shipley, the celebrated and controversial former men’s basketball coach at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, died on April 15, 2011, from lung cancer that eventually spread to his brain. He was 84.

In 16 years at the school, Shipley compiled a 293-126 record and twice reached the NCAA Tournament’s round of 16. But beyond his accomplishments on the court, Shipley will be most remembered as the first coach in the Deep South to actively recruit black players – a choice he made against the wishes of politicians and university officials who didn’t want to integrate the basketball team.

In 1973, the NCAA shut down the USL basketball program for two seasons after it claimed the team violated NCAA bylaws – infractions ranging from the payment of players to falsifying grades and college-entrance exams.

In his 2008 book, Slam Dunked, Shipley claims that many of the allegations were brought forth as forms of retaliation from segregation-sympathizers who opposed his breaking the color barrier at USL.

After leaving USL, Shipley briefly coached the ABA’s San Diego franchise before returning to Lafayette to work in oil field sales.

Swamp People Stars Make a Visit
HOUMA – More than 1,000 people turned out at Performance Powersports on May 21 to meet “Trapper Joe” LaFont and “Trigger Tommy” Chauvin, two stars of the History Channel’s reality series Swamp People. With a line stretching out the door, the duo signed various items for hours and posed for pictures.

The show follows around various alligator-hunters of the Atchafalaya Swamp during the 30-day alligator-hunting season. During the month of May, ratings for Swamp People were the second-highest on cable television, trailing only ESPN and TNT’s broadcasts of the NBA Playoffs.