2020 has been a year unlike any other and, as we will soon turn the page on a new year, KNH invites you to look back over the last 12 months to remember the highs and lows and the tragedies and triumphs that defined our year here in East Texas.
Undoubtedly, the story which filled most headlines throughout 2020 was the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 virus. In Dec. 2019, reports of the spreading virus appeared from China. Only a few months later, the virus had taken hold in the USA, spreading rapidly and changing the course of the rest of the year.
Non-essential businesses were ordered to close, social distancing and mask-wearing in public were constantly encouraged and many of us here in Kilgore struggled to make sense of it all.
Some urged others to stay safe and protect the most vulnerable members of of our community; others argued the virus did not exist or that statewide shutdown orders would cripple the economy and devastate small business owners.
Many of us lost loved ones, lost jobs and lost time which could have been spent with family and friends. Now, as a COVID-19 vaccine is being rapidly distributed worldwide, we may finally be turning the corner on a year of lockdowns and anxiety. Still, with local hospitals filling with people who have contracted the virus and infections on the rise, we are not past this obstacle yet. We pray 2021 will bring new hope and a return to some sense of normalcy.
Even with all the difficulties of a global pandemic, business and construction had a booming year in Kilgore. 2020 began with a new Planet Fitness gym preparing to open, alongside massive renovations and developments at Arbor Grace of Kilgore. After months of work, we’ve seen the gym open, Arbor Grace open a new facility and construction has begun on a new gas station/convenience store, a new Chick-fil-A restaurant and a new Dairy Queen. Euphoria Botanicals also opened its doors in downtown Kilgore, and the Kilgore Economic Development Corporation was awarded for bringing new businesses to the City of Stars.
Weeks passed in early 2020 and the start of spring brought some signs of relief as Gov. Greg Abbott announced some businesses could begin reopening at a reduced capacity. Many local restaurants begin offering curbside and pick-up service to continue serving customers, and 4 Star Cinema sold popcorn so cinephiles could bring the movie experience into their homes.
Sadly, many cherished Kilgore events were forced to be cancelled, including the Texas Shakespeare Festival. Festival founder and director Raymond Caldwell announced his retirement after 30 years leading TSF and more than 50 years in education. Though he wasn’t able to host the festival in his final year, Caldwell still received a grand, socially-distanced send-off from the many Kilgoreites who love him and the artistic achievements he brought to East Texas.
Kilgore College’s world-famous Rangerettes also marked a banner year, celebrating their 80th anniversary after founder Gussie Nell Davis created the precision drill and dance team in 1940. While the ‘Rettes were not able to offer their normal calendar of dance events and shows, determined hopefuls still donned face masks in July to try out for the line. 32 new ‘Rettes were accepted to the 81st Rangerette Line and a world-famous Kilgore institution continued on in the face of adversity.
Dealing with “shutdown fatigue” and isolation was a real challenge for many in Kilgore this year. Many turned to outdoor activities to enjoy nice weather and a chance to stretch their legs as summer turned into fall. In late October, City of Kilgore held a well-attended event on Dudley Road to officially mark the the completion of the Creekside Trail, the Bighead Creek Mountain Bike Trail and the new Crescent St. Dog Park.
Locals had been using Creekside Trail for months, savoring the opportunity to take a stroll or walk their dogs on the shady path. The new expansions gave them even more options to experience nature, whether on foot, on a bike or alongside a four-legged furry friend.
Shortly after the trail openings, Kilgoreos soon put on their walking shoes once again to attend the annual Trick or Treat event in downtown Kilgore. Hundreds of costumed revelers, from dinosaurs to superheroes to masked madmen, flocked to the historic downtown area, showing our fair city truly enjoys costumes, candy and fun. In a year when we repeatedly heard about cherished local events being cancelled, the Trick or Treat was a sweet and silly bright spot in a sometimes-grim year.
Kilgore Bulldogs went big in football in 2020, with the Kilgore High School team entering the playoffs and moving ahead with a win at home in November and continuing their playoff streak into December, when they at last lost to Lindale, ending their longest playoff run since 2013 as one of the final eight teams in the state in the UIL’s Class 4A, Division I playoffs.
As the year drew to a close after what seemed like much more than 12 months, Kilgoreites gathered together to celebrate Christmas. Though the annual Christmas parade was cancelled, Kilgore Mercantile and Music hosted a Christmas-themed “Cruise Night” with Kilgore Police Department officers escorting a line of revelers, merrymakers and classic cars through downtown. 2020 may have battered and bruised us but, here in Kilgore, our heads are held high as we anticipate the joys and successes to come in the year ahead.