Looking back at 2017: Stories we loved.

Published 3:19 am Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking back on the year past as we prepare to ring in the New Year is a long-held tradition. In keeping with the tradition, we chose stories we loved from 2017 – not necessarily the biggest stories, nor the ones that generated the most online views. Instead, we chose the stories that define who we are as a community.



No look back at what made us happy could be complete without acknowledging the Andalusia High School’s tremendous football season. The Bulldogs finished the 2017 season 12-2, and advanced to the fourth round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s playoffs. This was the second straight season that the Bulldogs won the Class 4A, Region 1 title and made it to the fourth round of the playoffs.

AHS’s A Sound Tradition marching band also had a stellar season, marching a record 167 students and earning superior ratings in competitions.

As impressive as the football team and band were, their fans deserved a crown of their own. From Thursday night pep rallies on the Square, to travelling with the team, and posting signs of support, the Bulldog faithful were just that: true to their team.




Southern Living called Andalusia of its “Best Small Towns for Christmas in the South,” and the bigger, better Candyland did not disappoint the thousands of people who brought their children to use their imaginations in the play cottages, try ice skating, take a train ride, or visit with their favorite characters.

The official visitors’ number for Candyland has not been released, but the Chamber of Commerce contracted with experts who track cell phone use in the defined area to estimate crowd numbers. Those should be available in the next few weeks.



Shaw Industries announced it plans is spending $184 million to upgrade equipment at its Andalusia facility, a move local economic development officials hailed as a commitment to keep the business operating here.

Shaw officials said the project includes construction of new and expanded building assets, and installation of substantial amounts of new manufacturing equipment. The company is based in Dalton, Ga.

Shaw, which employs approximately 1,000 associates at Plant 65, is the largest employer in the county. Its workers create fiber used to manufacture carpet.


Clark Theatres

In April, the newly-renovated Clark Theatres got rave reviews in its red-carpet rollout.

Clark Theatres owner Mack Clark, left, samples the popcorn during Tuesday’s open house.

The O’Neal family, who owned the theater building on the square for decades, donated it to the city in early 2016. In turn, the city completely remodeled it, and has a long-term lease in effect with Clarke Theatres. On hand for the ribbon cutting and open house were city and Chamber officials, along with Clark Theatres owner Mack Clark, and theater personnel.

The building was completely gutted, and the facility now has three theaters with recliners and stadium seating, a brand-new snack bar, and new restroom facilities. It also has state-of-the-art equipment.


Now that’s a big critter

A six-year quest to kill a massive feral hog ended in August when John Niedbala shot the beast off of Hwy. 70 near the Covington County tree farm. The approximately 500-pound hog was so big, locals called him “VW.”

Roger Jernigan (left) and Corey Harrelson (right) stand with the hog known as “VW.”
Courtesy photo

“We call him VW because when you see him, he’s so big you could mistake him for a Volkswagen,” Niedbala said.

The hog had been destroying local crops, tearing them up and eating at his leisure.

“We have tried to catch him tons of different ways,” Niedbala said. “He was a smart pig, though. He would always eat around our traps and stay away from human activity.”

The men involved in the six-year chase tried to use dogs to track and catch the hog, but the hog overpowered them as well, leaving a few injured and bitten.

The hogs cause problems for farmers across the Southeast.


Unity in our community

After violence erupted in August in Charlottesville, Va., over plans to remove a Confederate statute, two local ministers worked together to stage a unity event.

Darryl Calloway, pastor of First Baptist Church Whatley Street, said he and Phillip Morgan, pastor of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church, were praying together when they decided to do an event on the square. Calloway is black; Morgan is white. But each said they feel like brothers, sharing many of the same beliefs and often bringing their congregations together.

“In order for us to keep what we have, we have to work on it,” Morgan said. “We need to live what we believe, and set an example not only for us, but for other people. We have a special place, not by chance, but by effort of the people.”


Back in the spotlight, again

Several years ago, Bill Alverson brought a national spotlight to Andalusia when parts of his reality TV show, “Coach Charming,” were filmed here. IN June, Netflix ordered 13 episodes of Insatiable, a drama based on the life of a Southern attorney and beauty pageant coach. Alverson, who is both, was the inspiration for the story line.

Dallas Roberts is cast in the lead role.