Feature stories don’t hold the same weight or seriousness as hard news stories do. Instead they delineate the character and values of a community, displaying its strengths and passions through narrative.

The stories highlight community members who are making a difference or who need help from their neighbors. They tell stories of what’s in store for the community, whether it’s a new restaurant in Old Town or a visit from Santa.

With each community story told, readers learn more about where they live and who they’re surrounded by.

Here are the most popular community stories from 2016:

Local sports

Ragan Smith was a member of the US Olympic gymnastics team as an alternate but was not called on to compete in the Rio Olympics.

The Georgia native, who has an extensive upcoming international competition schedule, continues to train with Lewisville resident Kim Zmeskal-Burdette. In addition to her elite training, she is working toward her high school degree at Texas Virtual Academy and remains committed to the University of Oklahoma gymnastics team for enrollment in the fall of 2018.

She hopes to return to Olympic competition at the 2020 summer games in Tokyo, Japan.

Big John, Lewisville High School’s mascot, was invited to do a routine at the Citrus Bowl in Florida over the holiday break. William Anglin Brown is the first Big John to receive All-American honors at a Universal Cheerleaders Association camp. Single parent Michelle Brown turned to the community to help her raise the funds for her son in the Big John head.

Michelle Brown was able to raise $1,750 through GoFundMe for her son to partake in the opportunity only extended to All-American mascots. She informed us Big John headed to Florida Monday, Dec. 26 and will be performing on Saturday, Dec. 31.

 

Another momentous story we covered was when the Lewisville High School reclaimed the axe from rival Flower Mound Marcus at an October football game. The Marauders have held onto the axe for the past 10 years, but now it sits in Farmer Nation.

“This city has been waiting for this for a long time,” quarterback Desmond Jefferson said after the game. “I’m proud that we are the team to bring it to them because we work hard just like this community does.”

The Farmers did not earn a spot in the playoffs.

Lewisville online

Officers from Lewisville Police took part in the Running Man Challenge. The internet trend involves people recording themselves doing the running man, a dance move involving the shuffling of feet, to “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJs.

The video’s storyline follows the dance-journey of one traffic violator as the department eventually joins in. The video post garnered more than 50,000 views, making it the top community post of 2016. The department challenged the Flower Mound and Coppell police forces to participate with their own video.

The photoshopped image of the water tower was part of the April Fools' Day prank pulled by the Lewisville Texan Journal. (Photo illustration by Steve Southwell)
The photoshopped image of the water tower was part of the April Fools’ Day prank pulled by the Lewisville Texan Journal. (Photo illustration by Steve Southwell)

On April Fools day, The Lewisville Texan Journal fooled some residents into thinking a local water tower was being painted to reflect new FDA regulations, requiring clear labeling in English and Spanish on potable water storage units as well as providing a nutrition label for transparency. This prank was later revealed as a hoax and labeled a piece of satire.

After an online threat to burn a religious flag at a Lewisville home circulated on Facebook, a police officer warned the Rizvi family of the possible statement. The single mother asked the officer to help her take it down and did not wish to press charges as she felt it would cause more trouble.

After the story was posted toFacebook, it inspired numerous comments online concerning religious freedom. The family has not risen the flag again yet.

Condom Sense, an adult gift store, opened at the strip mall at FM 3040 and Edmonds in February, creating a debate among Lewisville residents on Facebook. While some residents found its content inappropriate for the location, others saw no harm in its opening.

The thread has since inspired many tongue-in-cheek posts blaming unrelated local crimes on the store. When people ask what’s going in at a construction site, oftentimes at least one person will respond joking it’s another Condom Sense location.

A Parent’s Nightmare

Lewisville mom Alexandra Bass said a stranger at the Vista Ridge Mall tried to take her 3-year-old daughter. The experience was a weird one at first, she said, which she later realized was a dangerous one.

“It got weird— she stuck her hand out and my daughter went to give her a high five and [the woman] gave her a high five. When [the woman] stuck her hand out again and my daughter went to give her a high five, she immediately just grabbed my daughter’s hand. She was like, ‘You should come with me’,” said Bass.

The stranger continued to insist the girl go with her, Bass said. Bass shared her experience with the Texan Journal as a cautionary tale for parents to be aware of.

Jeana Walker, a 17-year-old Lewisville High School student, was raped and murdered in 1978. The man convicted of the crime will be up for parole in May of 2017 for a different crime.

Jackie Walker displays an article her mother, Lee Walker, wrote for the Dallas Morning News. The piece is a call to better the criminal justice system to keep "monsters" off the streets. (Photo by Christina Ulsh)
Jackie Walker displays an article her mother, Lee Walker, wrote for the Dallas Morning News. The piece is a call to better the criminal justice system to keep “monsters” off the streets. (Photo by Christina Ulsh)

Walker’s sister Jackie is collecting protest letters and petition signatures to present to the Texas parole board handling perpetrator John William McCrory’s case in hopes of keeping him in prison for the life sentence he was given after he was convicted of incest.

The Change.org petition has garnered 947 signatures at press time and Jackie Walker has mailed 83 letters to the parole board office as of Thursday, Dec. 29.

Christmas Cheer

Elf Edwin wrote about Santa’s travels to Lewisville. During Santa’s vacation, he visited various stops to snap photos with children and mingle with residents.

The Lewisville Texan Journal traveled with Saint Nick one evening as he visited the neighborhoods of the city atop a big, red fire engine with the Lewisville Fire Department. Families ran out of their homes with bare feet and arms waving to greet Santa, catch candy and get photos.

During a Christmas variety show at Victorious Life Church, emcee David Hira ordered a pizza. After the delivery driver brought the single pepperoni pizza to the church, he walked out with nearly $1,500 in tip money.

Pizza Hut employee Devin Cammack, who was wearing a heart-assistance device on his shorts, revealed to the church his decision this year to go through with a heart transplant. During the skit, Hira reminded the audience of the tithes that are typically gathered for the church. Money collected on Sunday, Dec. 18 would instead go towards tipping Cammack.

The following Monday, Cammack’s doctor informed him he would no longer need the transplant as his current treatments are working.

Business openings and development

Coyote Drive-In opened its second North Texas location in Lewisville on Oct. 28. The drive-in movie theater is the first in Denton County since the 1980s.

While the drive-in was projected to open in the summer of 2015, it was postponed primarily because of construction costs. Construction began in January this year and projected to be completed in June. Instead it opened at the end of October.

The drive-in was granted $306,500 in economic incentives from the city. In return, the theater will provide parking for certain city events and play city-provided advertisements before movies play.

Coyote Drive-In will bring six outdoor screens, live music and 100 jobs to Lewisville. It's the first outdoor theater in Denton County in more than 30 years. (Photo by Christina Ulsh)
Coyote Drive-In currently has five outdoor screens, live music and 100 jobs to Lewisville. It’s the first outdoor theater in Denton County in more than 30 years. (Photo by Christina Ulsh)

The five-screen drive-in theater will expand to six screens in 2017. Watch a guided tour of the facilities with CEO Glenn Solomon and COO Steve Winn here.

Old Town will be seeing new eateries in 2017. While officials previously reported the openings of Cavalli Pizza, Twisted Root Burger and Prohibition Chicken would begin in October, the new projected dates are after January 2017. Cavalli and Twisted Root are projected to open February 1, Lewisville spokesperson James Kunke said. Prohibition Chicken’s opening is to follow shortly after.

Cavalli’s is now accepting applications for front and back of house employees.

Luxury lofts will be replacing the RV park at Tower Bay, in turn displacing the residents who called the area home.

“We’re all having to go our separate ways. They broke up our family,” said Denise Taylor, one of the property managers and a former resident of 17 years. “It’s a shame but life goes on. We have to move on.”

The lofts will offer a view of the lake, a dog park and a sky lounge. Construction on the lofts will begin in the middle of 2017.