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Wolfabilene Updates Archives for 2020-01

Live music continues to take over Downtown Abilene


ABILENE, Texas (KRBC/KTAB) – There was a time where live music was sparse in Abilene. Only if you were lucky could you find a live band playing downtown.  But local musician Kirk House says in the last couple of years, Abilene has turned into a friendlier music community.   


“Just about any night of the week now, you can go somewhere around town and there’s going to be some live music,” he said. “Whether that’s an open mic, or whether it’s one of the new bars that opened or something like that, someone is going to have something live going on now, which wasn’t the case.”  


Tiffany Nichols with the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau said now that Abilene has been officially designated a “music friendly community” by the governor’s office – it’s becoming more intentional. 


They’ve been attempting to spread the word on all the available local live music events. 


“We put a Monday music post out that lets you know for the week where you can find the live music,” Nichols said.  


They also have their art walk coming up, where they plan to have live music every month, with a special guest at their first one.    


“So, it’s always the second Thursday of the month. So, this month we will be featuring Kirk House,” she said.  


Another way live music is being pushed is through the Open Road Series created by cofounders Sam Vinson and Taylor Surgis to bring people to downtown Abilene on a consistent basis.   


“We were able to secure a venue, the rooftop of the Grace and bring 150 to 200 people, four nights a year to the rooftop of the Grace to enjoy a concert looking at the skyline of Abilene.”  


Thrilled at the growing music scene in Abilene, House said music is that extra ingredient that makes everything better.   


“Music provides the atmosphere of something going on,” he said. “Of course, you have your bar scenes, you have your coffee shops and everything like that. But when you add music to it, you add another element of the arts to it.” 


The live music events can be found on Abilene Center Stage and the Abilene Convention and Visitors’ Bureau Facebook and Instagram pages.



By: Kevin Clack

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved



Abilene 'smart' water meter project on-pace, over 7,000 already replaced


ABILENE, Texas — The City of Abilene's water meter replacement project is "on-pace," according to Water Utilities Public Information Officer Amanda Pope.


Back in 2016, Abilene residents complained to KTXS about inaccurate and expensive water bills. Back then, City Manager Robert Hanna called the "smart" water meter replacement project an "intelligent expense."


The $18 million project began in September and is being funded through a loan from the Texas Water Development Board.


Pedal Valves Inc. was awarded the replacement contract. They have replaced about 7,200 meters so far.


During the 18-24 month long project, the City of Abilene said 43,000 meters will be replaced with "smart" meters.



When Abilene residents see a white flyer with the City of Abilene logo hanging from their door, PVI expects to replace a meter within one weeks time.


"If the meter does have to be changed, the water could be shut off for 15 to 30 minutes," Pope said. "So that's just an indicator if we need to schedule something specifically, we can do that."


The meter in Elysha Trego's front lawn was replaced on Monday afternoon.


"I hope it works," Trego said. "I hope it helps our bill."


The new meters will eventually allow residents to track their water usage on a day-to-day basis. However, that online tool is still being tested for accuracy.


"Once we get that up and running, they'll be able to go in and see their water usage in real time," Pope said.


There is no timetable as to when the online water-usage-tracker will be live.



By AJ Gersh

Copyright © 2020, KTXS12 ABC. All Rights Reserved






Abilene pianist Halle Puckett: The key to performance is to 'create this moment'


If there is a theme to Halle Puckett's piano performances, it's being in the moment.


In a recent interview with the Reporter-News, the 2016 Abilene High School graduate who will perform for the second time with Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra emphasized the importance and the joy of bringing a classic work to life before an audience.


Practice is for making sure all the notes are learned.


Performance is when those notes across the 88 keys at her fingertips live and breathe.


"Above everything, it's about communicating your feelings," she said. Her job is to create an atmosphere for enjoyment of a classic work, and to convey the emotion sought by the composer.


Puckett will play Beethoven's "Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major" for the Philharmonic's first concert of the new decade at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The title of the program is "Emperor Concerto," the name popularly given this piece.


She is excited "to get to come back and perform again," she said.

A young talent


Puckett is a senior majoring in piano performance at Texas Christian University. As the daughter of two noted pianists who teach at Hardin-Simmons University, Mark and Lauren Puckett, it would be surprising if she didn't have a soloist's skill set.


"I grew up in a very musical household," she said, laughing.


At 13, she won the Philharmonic's 2012 Nelda Hodges Young Artists Competition. Two years earlier, she was recorded at First Baptist Church for the NPR's program "From the Top."


These opened the doors to concert halls and performing as guest artist.


"I first met Halle during the 2012 Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition, and was extremely impressed by her mastery of the piano at such a young age," said David Itkin, the Philharmonic's conductor and music director. "Since then, I have invited her to play at several workshops and festivals that I have hosted over the past couple of years and we are all very excited to have her back performing with the Abilene Philharmonic."


In January 2014, she made her concert hall debut, performing Mozart's "Concerto No. 23 in A major with the local symphony. She has performed at a musical festival in McCall, Idaho, and at workshops at the University of North Texas, both under Itkin. Itkin is a professor of music and directs orchestral studies at UNT.


Additionally, Puckett fondly remembers a following concert with her parents at the Paramount Theatre. That performance, Pucketts at the Piano, included all three playing at once on one piano at one point. Their skill allowed that venture to project a musical freeway rather than a traffic jam and colliding fingers.


"That was very exciting," she said, "and very different."


Her parents also performed together in April 2017 with Abilene Civic Orchestra.


Asked if during her preparation for a major performance she test drives the work for her parents, she said she does and appreciates their input.


"My parents are exceptionally talented pianists. I trust their opinions," she said. "They give me another pair of ears, and I appreciate any advice."


What it takes


Understand this, young pianists: To be excellent takes work.


"The obvious answer is lots of practice," Puckett said.


Puckett said she practices up to seven hours a day even as a student. Her instructor is John Ownings, who is chairman of the piano department at the Fort Worth university.


"He is an amazing teacher," she said. A critical ear is an ally, not an enemy.


It's in the small, windlowless practice room in a music building basement — with no cellphone service, she adds, laughing — by herself that she masters the music. There are many notes to memorizes, and tempo and tone to sort out.


You'd think her fingers would wear out first after playing thousands of notes, and then again, but it's time to stop when she is mentally spent. 


"It takes a tremendous amount of mental focus," she said of making every note and nuance count.


She adheres to the dynamics marked on the music, and makes sure that "my third finger goes here," she said. It's from the basics that her performance arises.


It may sound as if it's all work and no play for this college student. But she insists that she is not a dull girl.


An honor graduate at Abilene High and a Reporter-News Star Student, she said, "Fort Worth has lots to do downtown. We have an incredible orchestra and there are art museums."


She also enjoys writing and reading.


"I hang out with my friends," she said. "And I watch movies."


On to the concert hall


Her preparation accomplished, Puckett is ready to join dozens of other musicians on stage. It's then, she said, she can "communicate my feelings" and connect the audience to the piece she is playing.


"It also takes experience," she said of being a concert soloist. That can't be acquired playing alone in a practice room.


"Keep calm and ... breathe," Puckett said of performing a piece that may go 40 minutes or longer. The reward is not missing a note but seeing how much the audience has appreciated the music as she interpreted it.


When she is on stage, her role is to "create this moment" that blends timeless music and her performance.


Earlier this concert season, cellist Amid Peled told the Reporter-News that he never plays the same piece the same way twice.


Puckett understands that. While the performance must remain true to the composer's vision, there are opportunities to incorporate herself into the work, she said.


"I definitely think that in a performance, there tends to be elements of opportunity," she said. 


The Abilene Philharmonic audience in September 2018 enjoyed the body language of young pianist Daniel Hsu, who performed Chopin's "Concerto No. 1 in E Minor."


"The audience definitely likes that kind of performance," she said of watching a pianist at work. Expression matters.


And so Saturday, the audience likely will see her hair waving as her fingers fly across the keys and her body sway at the end of runs, then witness her delicate playing.


Her enjoyment "will show through," she said.


About this piece


Puckett is thrilled to take on the "Emperor Concerto," a piece that dates to 1810. In three movements, it's right out of the game with piano playing that sets a majestic mood for the piece.


"Beethoven's 'Emperor Concerto' is a big undertaking for a young pianist, and I think audiences will be very impressed," Itkin said.


This is not a piece that eventually brings in the pianist. She will begin with flourish immediately, her hands dashing up and down the keyboard.


'It is extremely challenging," she said of the virtuosic introduction. Eventually, the orchestra takes the lead and the soloist waits patiently until her or his turn to take charge.


The second movement, she said, is "the most beautiful (music) I've ever heard."


The movement leads into the final movement Puckett describes as a "dance. Fun and joyful."


In total, the Beethoven concerto is "regal and triumphant. It's one of the greatest pieces of literature, all repertoires.


"It is so much fun."


If You Go


What: "The Emperor Concerto," featuring guest pianist Halle Puckett performing Beethoven's "Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major," and Brahms' Symphony No. 2 in D major"


When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday


Where: Abilene Convention Center, 1100 N. Sixth St.


Tickets: Range to $40, with $5 student tickets available. Go to 


Note: Those with tickets to the performance but also wanting to attend the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature event honoring Gary McCaleb are invited to Friday's rehearsal of "Emperor Concerto." It begins at 7 p.m. at the Convention Center.


Dad on stage, too


On Feb. 3, a string chamber music recital at Hardin-Simmons University will feature Mark Puckett, Halle Puckett's father, as soloist. There also will be two guest artists from the Dallas Opera Orchestra: Sondra Brudnak on violin and Vilma Peguero on cello. The program offers works by Igor Stravinsky, Clara Schumann and Astor Piazzolla


It will be at 7:30 p.m. at Woodward-Dellis Recital Hall. There is no admission cost.



By Greg Jaklewicz

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved





Why they march the bridge in Abilene: Community, unity and the children


After crossing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge on East Highway 80 on sunny and pleasant winter day, Michael T. Royals gathered the youngest participants and had them face the adults.


He had them recite a pledge aimed at honoring and respecting their parents, grandparents and the adults in their lives.


Then he explained why:


"They are bricks," he told the youths. "So, if you want to stay out of trouble, walk on the bricks. Walk on the bricks. Do you see all of these bricks right here? These are bricks. You all are not bricks yet. Anything y'all go through, these bricks, they've gone through. They've done it."


Kaden Ferguson, 6, plays with his miniature American flag while sitting atop the shoulders of his father, Sam. The pair were waiting for the start of Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. march across the MLK bridge in east Abilene.

Kaden Ferguson, 6, plays with his miniature American flag while sitting atop the shoulders of his father, Sam. The pair were waiting for the start of Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. march across the MLK bridge in east Abilene. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


While Royals — who again helped organize the annual march with the help of his family, carrying on the tradition started by his father, Claudie C. Royal — addressed the children in the crowd, Kelvin Kelley used his time with the microphone to speak with and to the adults.


The bricks in the crowd.


Kelley laid out his reasons for coming every Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for the celebration, choosing to honor the slain civil rights leader through marching rather than through partying at banquets.


Community, unity and the children, he said. Those are his reasons. Honoring all three will lead to a better life, a better city, a better country and a better world.


"I think this is more than a march," said Kelley, a professor at Hardin-Simmons University. "It is a walk for community. You see, community is the only thing that's going to build this nation. You can't build through politics. You can't build through ideology. You can't build through the things we try to hold fast to.


Participants make the loop around the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge as they participate in Monday's march honoring the slain civil rights leader near his birthdate of Jan. 15, 1929.

Participants make the loop around the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge as they participate in Monday's march honoring the slain civil rights leader near his birthdate of Jan. 15, 1929. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


"Community is the gift. And because it is a gift, you have to honor it."


Unity, he said, requires folks coming together, no matter what they look like. And children are who everyone fights to make things better for, he said, including leaders such as King who paved the way for today's Americans to try their best.


About 1,000 folks crossed the bridge Monday afternoon, coming from all walks of life. A mix of race, creed, religion, socio-economic standing and more were seen in a show of unity that demonstrated Kelley's points better than his words ever could.


Michelle Royals on Monday walks ahead of the Hardin-Simmons University basketball team, which carried the banner for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. bridge march in east Abilene. The afternoon event began in the parking lot at Woodson Center for Excellence, proceeded south on Cockerell Drive, then marched west over the MLK bridge and returned to Cockerell and Woodson.

Michelle Royals on Monday walks ahead of the Hardin-Simmons University basketball team, which carried the banner for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. bridge march in east Abilene. The afternoon event began in the parking lot at Woodson Center for Excellence, proceeded south on Cockerell Drive, then marched west over the MLK bridge and returned to Cockerell and Woodson. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)



By Timothy Chipp

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved

Eyes were wide at first peek inside new youth sports complex at Nelson Park




The small group of first-time visitors to the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center at Nelson Park was awed late Wednesday afternoon. Mainly by the size of the cavernous new home to the Abilene Youth Sports Authority on the east side of the park.


But also by the amenities, which will make the roughly 55,000-square-foot facility the go-to site in West Texas and perhaps in the state as a whole.


The facility is not yet completed, and visitors traversed a plywood path over dirt to the entrance. But it's close. Close enough to open late next month in time to bring the West Texas Sports and Fitness Expo there.


A panoramic picture of the interior of the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center, now in the final stages of construction, Wednesday.

A panoramic picture of the interior of the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center, now in the final stages of construction, Wednesday. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


The annual early February event has been pushed back to Feb. 29 to provide time for the completion of construction (and perhaps take advantage of a leap year date). The event now will be known as the 2020 West Texas All Youth Expo.


The gym area, which resembles an enormous hangar that perhaps could house a couple of B-1B bombers or C-130 transport planes, is brightly lighted, features multiple basketball and volleyball and provides balcony seating for spectators. Guests were shown dressing areas, offices, the concession area near the entrance. The state-of-the-art air circulation system was explained.


Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center Executive Director Brandon Osborne answers questions about the new athletic complex during a tour Wednesday.

Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center Executive Director Brandon Osborne answers questions about the new athletic complex during a tour Wednesday. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


Brandon Osborne, the executive director of the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center at Nelson Park, gestures as he leads a tour of the nearly-complete athletic facility Wednesday.

Brandon Osborne, the executive director of the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center at Nelson Park, gestures as he leads a tour of the nearly-complete athletic facility Wednesday. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


The floor is a wood product that has give, lessening the impact on the knees of those jumping for spikes or rebounds, director Brandon Osborne said.


For those wanting to own a piece of history, spectator seats can be purchased for a one-time donation of $100. The seat will bear the name of the donor, though, Osborne joked, that doesn't mean the donor gets that specific seat at an event.


"Even with their name on it," he said, smiling. 


The project is funded by a final gift from the now-sunsetted Dodge Jones Foundation. Though Dodge Jones funds have gone to other construction projects over its decades of operation, this is the first time a structure bears its name.


Information on AYSA, the new facility and donor opportunities can be found at 



By Greg Jaklewicz

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved




Neal McCoy, Lindsay Ell headlining 50th West Texas Rehab Telethon and Auction


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Neal McCoy and Lindsay Ell will be headlining the 50th edition of the West Texas Rehab Telethon and Auction.


The event will take place at the Abilene Convention Center on January 18 beginning at 7:00 p.m.


In addition to live entertainment, there will be an auction featuring 400 items of merchandise and services available for bidding.


Bidding for the auction is already taking place online at


The auction will run through midnight on January 19 and all items will be on display at the Convention Center beginning at 6:00 p.m. on January 18.


Entertainers joining Neal McCoy and Lindsay Ell include Charlie Chase, Red Steagall, The Boys in the Bunkhouse, Rion Paige, Jennifer Douglas Smith, Braid Blanks, Brad Maule, and Tyla Foreman.


The entire event will be live-streamed online at and broadcast on KTAB TV from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.



By: Erica Garner

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved



Wylie Bulldogs head coach and athletic director announces retirement




WYLIE ISD, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Hugh and Brenda Sandifer have announced their retirement effective at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Hugh, who has been the Wylie Bulldogs head football coach and athletic director since 1985, led the football team to 3 playoff appearance before 24 straight playoff appearances starting in 1994 and ending in 2017. The 2004 team won the state championship against Cuero 17-14 at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco featuring Case Keenum at quarterback engineering a fourth quarter rally for the title. In addition, he had teams that were state finalists in 2000, 2009, and 2016. State semi-final teams included 1994, 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2015. Sandifer’s teams compiled a record of 285-127-4.


Brenda originally worked at Abilene High as an English and French teacher and sponsored the cheerleaders and Bold Gold pep squad. Brenda has been a counselor in the district since 1985 and the district’s director of counseling since 1988. Hugh and Brenda graduated from ACU.


Hugh and Brenda said they would know in their hearts when it is time to retire. “It is very important to us to leave when there are good people in place, and they are definitely here. The future is bright for Wylie.” They emphasized that they want the focus of everything to be on the kids, not on them. Coach Sandifer has always preached “being part of something bigger than yourself.” Brenda and Hugh are carrying this sentiment with them into retirement.


Hugh Sandifer was hired by Wylie icon, superintendent Stanley Whisenhunt, in 1979. It is Coach Sandifer’s staying power that may be the his most amazing attribute. When hired, Hugh told Brenda that he would work at Wylie for a year and then they would move to another town. He had many opportunities and offers to take other jobs. He chose to remain in the Wylie family.


Hugh has taught elementary P.E., health, Texas history, and U.S. history. He has coached JV boys basketball, varsity boys basketball, tennis, JV football, and varsity football.


Hugh worked for superintendents Stanley Whisenhunt, Roy Hartman, Bud Shelton, Cecil Davis, Don Harrison, and Joey Light. In that time frame, the high school principals have been Charles Perkins, Nick Pruitt, Larry Shackelford, Steve Post, Bart McMeans, Terry Hagler, Mitch Davis, Tommy Vaughn, and Tim Smith.


Joey Light, WISD superintendent said “Coach Sandifer has invested his life in every young person whom he has encountered in the last 41 years. He has been driven to make them better students, family members, teammates, adults, and contributing members of society. He leads with a passion and commitment that is contagious. His success has helped define not only his program, but the excellence of Wylie High School. I am so grateful for what he has meant to this school district and to me personally.”



Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


Taylor County commissioners approve $315,000 bid to demolish old 1931 jail

Pigeon inside of the old Taylor County Jail (Joe Fry/KTXS)


ABILENE, Texas — Taylor County commissioners approved $315,000 bid to demolish the old 1931 jail.


Garrett Demolition, Inc bid $283,095 for asbestos abatement and demolition, plus another $31,930 to fill the excavated area with clean soil.


The highest bid was $738,029 which included $467,644 for the asbestos abatement and demolition and $270,385 for the dirt.


The jail has been vacant since 1984 and has several costly issues.


  • Asbestos
  • Old cells with lead based paint
  • Roof with holes in it
  • Vegetation growing on stairs


Commissioners voted last months to accept bids, despite opposition from Commissioner Randy Williams.


Williams believes the County should at least try to sell the property before spending tax payer dollars on demo.


He reiterated those concerns during Tuesday's meeting.



By Jamie Burch

Copyright © 2020, KTXS12 ABC. All Rights Reserved


Everyday Hero: Dr, John Wray gives patients a personal touch


EDITOR'S NOTE: Through the beginning of 2020, the Reporter-News is publishing stories on Everyday Heroes, people who make a difference in their communities, often without receiving recognition.


Medical personnel are there to serve people in urgent need of health care. The good ones (which most of them are) frequently go above and beyond “just doing my job.”


Dr. John Wray of Abilene Family Medical Associates apparently is one of the many “good” ones.


Edith Revoir, a nurse practitioner at Affordacare Urgent Care Clinic, has seen him in action enough to nominate him as an Everyday Hero.


“He always takes extra time with patients,” she said, adding that he is always asking if he can do anything else for them. “He has a personal touch in their care.”


Dr. John Wray, physician and Everyday Hero.

Dr. John Wray, physician and Everyday Hero. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


It’s not only the patients that benefit, Revoir said. Wray always has encouragement for the clinic staff, reminding them frequently, “I’m only a phone call away.”


“He is always, 'How are things going? Things will get better. What can we do to make things better?'” Revoir said. 


No matter the situation, which can sometimes be stressful, Wray is never in a bad mood, she said. Even when an employee was rude to a patient, he was encouraging instead of judgmental. “‘I think things can get better. We all have room for improvement,’ was his way of handling it,” Revoir said.



Carol Miller, who has been his office nurse for “13 or 14 years,” offered a similar opinion.


“He seems to genuinely care about his patients,” she said. “He doesn’t put on airs; he enjoys what he does.”


Wray frequently will ask her to call someone he has treated previously to see how they are doing.


Wray answers to “Dr. John.” His brother James, now retired, also was a physician, and they practiced together. Calling for “Dr. Wray” became confusing, so each would answer to his first name.


Miller and Revoir both mentioned Wray’s calm and cheerful manner. Wray says he couldn’t see himself being any other way, especially in his profession.


“Nobody likes a grouchy doctor,” he said. “Anybody can be grouchy. Every day is a good day.”


Wray has been a hero to more than just his patients. Several years ago, he became a foster parent to a young man (now an adult) at Ben Richey Boys Ranch. Wray also does physical exams for athletes and Scouts. Through his church, Highland Church of Christ, he participates in out-of-state mission trips, as well as occasional visits to Guatemala.


His reason for willingly doing all this? He has a concise answer.


“We’ve been very blessed.”



By Carl Kieke

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved




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