STORIES WE LOVED IN 2015
Published 3:05 am Thursday, December 31, 2015
It has been a year to remember for Andalusia area residents.
2015 began on bright notes when Andalusia City Schools re-opened in January with students attending the brand-spanking-new Andalusia Junior High School for the first time.
Students were excited about working in the new science and computer labs, and having access to the indoor practice facility at adjacent Andalusia High School.
As soon as the school day ended, there was another first for Andalusia. The APPLE after-school program, run by the City of Andalusia and housed at the Woodson Learning Center (formerly Andalusia Middle School), opened with 160 students participating and a waiting list.
The program, which is free, is funded by a three-year, $600,000 21st Century Learning Grant awarded to the city in October. Participating students are bused from Andalusia Elementary and Andalusia Junior High to the Woodson Learning Center, where they participate in recreational and academic activities.
In February, the community bid a heart-breaking goodbye to young Megan Kelley, when her valiant battle with cancer ended. She was remembered for her infectious smile and positive attitude.
“Megan’s journey has served to rally the community together around a central cause,” her pastor, Josh Wilson said. “The response to the community to do whatever was necessary to reach out to the Kelley family through this journey has been overwhelmingly amazing.”
A small indication of the number of lives she touched was reflected by Star-News statistics, which show that her obituary was read 18,671 times on the newspaper website alone.
Within months of her passing, a foundation was formed in her memory to raise funds for young adults with cancer and bring smiles to their faces. The foundation’s first fundraiser, a Megan Kelley sMiles 5K, drew a larger crowd than had ever participated in a local race before.
In April, an anxious public got its fill of Taco Bell. Lines at the new restaurant extended into the highway and required special traffic patrol for days.
In June, more than 70 former students, teachers and family members gathered on a warm Saturday morning for the unearthing of a 30-year-old time capsule that was buried at East Three Notch Elementary School — now city hall — in 1985.
It took a few men to remove the marker that was dedicated to the school’s 70th anniversary. The capsule was buried right under the monument, standing straight up and down.
Items such as books, clothes, magazines, a blue Smurf, a present, a Mason jar, a list of students who completed the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, cassette tapes, shoes, a worn down pencil and others were found inside the capsule.
Throughout the early part of the summer, the presence of film crews was all the buzz. They were everywhere – at the courthouse, on the Square, in neighborhoods and at the gym.
They were here to film Coach Charming, a reality series featuring Andalusia’s own Bill Alverson. Alverson, who is a local attorney, also works as a pageant coach. The reality series focuses on both of those roles, and also features members of the Alverson family.
The eight-episode series aired in the fall, and is now scheduled to air in the United Kingdom. No official word on a Season 2.
July brought lots of fun for music lovers when the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the City of Andalusia, launched July Jamz, a series of free outdoor concerts.
The musical events were such a hit that plans are already being made for another summer series. While parents relaxed on the lawn of Springdale, children cooled off by playing in a foam machine.
Richard Robertson, who had taught and coached in the Andalusia City School system for 50 years, retired in August. Robertson served as athletic director and head basketball coach, and is a former football, track and baseball coach.
“I’ve got to have more time at home and with my family,” he said. “They’ve been real supportive of me. I love coaching, but I don’t want to stay too long.”
One of his former students, Marshall Locke, was named interim head basketball coach for the Bulldogs.
“It’s an extreme honor to be named the head basketball coach at my alma mater,” Locke said. “I grew up next to Coach Robertson, and he was always grooming me to be a coach.”
In October, dozens of Robertson’s former students attended a retirement program and reception in his honor.
No recap of 2015 would be complete without a mention of the pride and energy surrounding the 2015 AHS Bulldog football team, led for the first year by another former Bulldog, Trent Taylor. Taylor was named head coach in late 2014.
Taylor and his brother, offensive coordinator Ray Wilson, started new traditions with the team, including adopting a new logo, a new creed, and a new song. When they win, the team sings, “We’ve got that Bulldog spirit down in our hearts” to the tune of the Sunday School favorite, “I’ve Got a Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart.”
At first, the coach said, the kids looked at the coaches as if they might be a little crazy. Now they jump and sing and have fun with it.
“I think it’s caught on,” Taylor said. “I’ve even heard one or two of them say on the sidelines when we’re ahead, ‘We’re gonna sing tonight.’ ”
The Bulldogs advanced to the third round of state football playoffs.
In late fall, Highway 29 through Crenshaw County to Andalusia was officially christened the Mal Moore Memorial Highway.
Moore, who was a native of Dozier, rose to the top of the college sports world, serving as athletic director at the University of Alabama. But all who gathered to celebrate his memory when the highway was renamed agreed: No matter where he went or how successful he became, Moore never forgot his South Alabama roots. He was a legendary storyteller and his favorite topics were about growing up in his tiny hometown. “I think without a doubt, the reason my father was able to accomplish so much was because of his roots and his family. He would always say y’all were the salt of the Earth and and that you know what’s important in life,” his daughter, Heather Moore, said at the ceremony. “And y’all were always with him, winning or losing.”
Moore, who also played and coached at UA, died in 2013
In December, Candyland returned to downtown Andalusia with added attractions – an outdoor ice skating rink and a train ride. Candyland, which is expected to become Andalusia’s signature event, drew huge crowds to town throughout the month.
Tonight, area residents can enjoy Candyland as the community counts down to the new year, when a domino will drop and fireworks will welcome 2016.