From continued chaos from the COVID-19 pandemic, to a crippling and historic winter storm, to so much more, 2021 was certainly an interesting year.

Despite challenges and change, some great things happened in Abilene this year and we want to be sure we highlight some of the stories that make us proud to live in the Key City.

10. Stamford elementary students celebrate cafeteria worker becoming U.S. citizen

Students and staff at Oliver Elementary in Stamford celebrated their cafeteria worker, Maria Ponce, for becoming a US citizen.

It’s always a special celebration when someone receives their U.S. citizenship. A special woman, Maria Ponce, a cafeteria worker at Oliver Elementary in Stamford, earned her citizenship back in May. This accomplishment did not go unnoticed as students and staff congratulated her with a special and patriotic walk down the hallway.

Read the full story here.

9. Abilene man with Cerebral Palsy achieves goal of becoming personal trainer

Sometimes you just come across someone who is inspiring despite all obstacles. In August, we met Joshua “King” Rushin, who takes every opportunity he can to show that disabled doesn’t mean unable. He was born was Cerebral Palsy and proudly achieved his goal of becoming a personal trainer. We could all learn a lesson from King.

Read the full story here.

8. In crisis, we came together

Despite much crisis, like the devastating winter storm, the COVID-19 pandemic and more, Abilene came together to help our neighbors in need. In October, the United Way of Abilene announced that more than $1 million was raised to assist those in need during disasters this year. Way to go, United Way and Abilene!

Read the full story here.

7. Wylie Little League makes it to the Little League World Series

Abilene, Texas’ Ella Bruning (8) connects for an RBI-single against Sammamish, Wash., during the sixth inning of a baseball game at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

The Wylie Little League All Stars team was in the national spotlight as they advanced to the Little League World Series in August. The team won the hearts of the nation and the only girl in this year’s tournament was Wylie’s Ella Bruning. Bruning became only the 20th girl to play in the Little League World Series and was only the third girl to have a multi-hit game in Little League World Series history.

Read the full story here.

6. Winter Lightfest has record attendance with whopping 57,000 visitors

The 2021 United Way Winter Lightfest had millions of Christmas lights and thousands of visitors. In its third year, the annual walkable Christmas lights park boasted nearly 3 million lights, all with a goal of helping local nonprofits. With the help of Christmas Decor by Lonestar Electric and many other sponsors, volunteers worked the 3/4 mile trail. Proceeds from Lightfest benefit the United Way of Abilene’s partner agencies. This year, officials said there was more than 57,000 visitors, nearly 10,000 more than last year. Winter Lightfest is back for its fourth year next November.

5. Abilene Gives has a record year with $1.9 million raised for nonprofits

$1.9 million raised for Abilene Gives 2021

The community rallied together at historic levels for the 2021 Abilene Gives campaign. Led by the Community Foundation of Abilene, community members raised more than $1.9 million for 140 local organizations. Abilene Gives 2022 is set for May 3.

Read the full story here.

4. Abilene receives the Barksdale Trophy for community support of Dyess AFB

Dyess Airforce Base: The 7th Bomb Wing Airmen crushed Global Strike Challenge

For the second time in four years, Abilene won the prestigious Barksdale Trophy, in recognition of the community’s support of Dyess Air Force Base. Abilene is known for its unwavering support of our Dyess airmen neighbors. Dyess also won several other awards as part of the Global Strike Challenge.

Read the full story here.

3. ACU stuns Texas, picks up first ever NCAA Tournament win

It was the first win in the NCAA tournament for the ACU men’s basketball team, and the second appearance in recent years. The Wildcats stunned the nation beating #3 seed Texas Longhorns in the first found of the tournament. This win brought massive attention to the ACU, elevating it to the national stage.

Read the full story here.

Included in ACU’s first NCAA tournament win:

2. Hawley Bearcats make it to State Championship Game

We were all wearing marron when the Hawley Bearcats football team made it all the way to the State Championship game. In a time when we needed positivity, the team showed amazing sportsmanship and brought the entire Abilene and Big Country community together.

Read the full story here.

1. Historic and extraordinary development in Abilene

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Billion of dollars in capital investments are being made in Abilene industry in the coming years. Thanks to the work of the Development Corporation of Abilene and our local government, hundreds of new jobs are headed for the Key City. In 2021, we saw the groundbreaking of Great Lakes Cheese, the groundbreaking of Prairie Dog Pet Foods expansion, the announcement of an Amazon facility, and the announcement of the largest project in Abilene and Taylor County history: Lancium’s renewable energy project. Led by CEO Misty Mayo, the DCOA’s mission is to diversify Abilene’s industries and attract new companies to town.

Included in Abilene’s development:

Previous Abilene top 10 positive stories:

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