Here we are at the end of 2021. We have survived the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the traumas and tragedies of the year have left many battered and bruised if not physically, then emotionally. I’ll just say it, it has been a difficult year. But, at the same time, in many ways, it has also been a good year. The last 12 months have been filled with uncertainties, changes, growth and joy.

There have been a lot of great things that have happened throughout Lee County over the last 12 months. There were some heart-breaking moments as well.

Below you will find highlights of some of the stories and events that we at The Observer have been privileged to cover over the last 12 months, along with the date of the issue in which the story was covered. This is by no means a complete list of all the happenings in the county —  but merely some of the top headlines from each week. Digital editions from each issue are on our website,


Opelika City council reverses decision and approves alcohol license for Cracker Barrel – Jan. 13

Dough opened in downtown Opelika – Jan. 6

Lucy’s in Auburn named Emerging small business of the year by the Business Council of Alabama and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama – Jan. 27

One Voice Shelter Coalition opens new shelter in Opelika – March 3

The Well opens in downtown Opelika – March 17

Pharmavite announces expansion – March 24

Weeny Wagon opens for business – March 24

Cornerstone Family Chiropractic expands to Phenix City – March 24

Mo’Bay Beignets opens in Auburn – April 8

Boonie Hat Coffee opens in downtown Opelika – April 22

Jo-Ann Stores announce expansion at Opelika facility – May 13

Crazy Cazboys opens in Auburn – May 27

Hilyer and Associates celebrate 50 years – May 27

Tart and Tartan open in downtown Opelika – May 27

The Vintage 2298 breaks ground in Auburn – June 3

Auburn Direct Primary Care opens – June 10

Freestanding ER opens in Auburn – June 24

Point Broadband moves company headquarters to Opelika – July 8

Flat Iron Arms in Smiths Station celebrates 5 years – Aug. 5

Girl STEPS Inc. moves into new facility – Aug. 5

Hanwha announces plans to build manufacturing facility in Opelika – Aug. 5

Mrs. Story’s announces closure – Sept. 2

Alleyway Café opens – Sept. 9

Melanin Café feature story – Sept. 9

Chappy’s Deli wins Statewide Retailer of the Year award – Sept. 16

Habachi on Wheels is open for business – Sept. 16

Hanwah breaks ground in Opelika – Sept. 23

Terence “Juice” Jones opens gym in Opelika – Sept. 23

Level III NICU opens at EAH – Sept. 30

Medical Arts Pharmacy tops 1 million prescriptions milestone – Oct. 7

New Opelika Public Library opens – Oct. 7

Buc-ee’s break ground in Auburn – Nov. 4

Mrs. Story’s reopens – Nov.11

Cumberland Plastics Systems to expand – Nov. 25

Shinhwa Auto USA Corporation brings new jobs – Nov. 25

SiO2 plans $123 Million expansion in Auburn – Nov. 25

Breast Health Center opens in Auburn – Nov.25

Mando announces plans to grow in Opelika – Dec. 30


Beauregard High School receives $20,000 Alabama Arts Education Initiative Grant – April 8

Auburn University President Jay Gogue announces retirement – June 17

Local schools require face masks; parents protest – July 29

Auburn Middle School student wins Miss Alabama Preteen – Aug. 19

Auburn Junior High School teacher, Kimberly Johnson, named Alabama 2021-22 Teacher of the Year – Aug. 19

Auburn students, community members form protest amid rape allegations on campus – Sept. 23


Button leaves OHS – Jan. 6

Opelika’s pickleball facility named the ‘2020 Facility of the Year” by the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association – Feb. 10

Glenwood’s Lady Gators Basketball win state title – Feb. 24

Keith Etheredge hired as AHS football coach – March 3

AHS Cross Country coach, Olivia Tofani named 2020 High School Cross Country Coach of the Year – March 31

AHSAA announces it will offer flag football in the 2021-22 school year – April 15

Beauregard High School gets a new head coach – Justin Jones – April 15

Wesley Button named OHS basketball coach – April 22

Lee-Scott girls soccer win state title – April 29

8-year-old Max Stern breaks swimming records – April 29

Opelika boys track and field win AHSAA 6A state outdoor Championship – May 6

Jaclyn Button named OHS girls flag football coach – May 13

Raven Harris is selected as an ambassador for the 2022 World Games to be held in Birmingham – May 27

Jessica Thornton named softball coach at OHS – June 24

Alison Link named AHS flag football coach – June 24

Incoming AU Freshman, Suni Lee, earns spot on US Gymnastics Olympic Team – July 1

Smiths Station hires Kelvin Roberts as Girls Basketball Coach – July 29

Blake Smalley named head coach for girls basketball at OHS – Aug. 5

Auburn Head Coach Harsin’s first game – Sept. 9

Braves win playoffs – head to World Series – Oct. 28

Smiths Station flag football team competes in state championship – Nov. 25

History Making Iron Bowl – Dec. 2

Auburn students win $1 million in Bass fishing contest – Dec. 2

OHS Jimmy Johnson named Boys Track and Field Coach of the Year – Dec. 9

AHS Scott Goolsby named the Broyles Award Assistant Coach of the Year – Dec. 16

Auburn University hires new offensive coordinator, Austin Davis – Dec. 23


EAMC opens vaccine clinic in Tuesday Morning building – Feb. 3

Gov. Kay Ivey visits vaccine clinic – April 22

Vaccine clinic announces it will close on June 14 – May 27

AU offers vaccine incentives to students – July 29

Alabama re-enters state of emergency due to increases in COVID cases – Aug. 19

Protests against vaccine mandates – Oct. 28


Old 280 Boogie celebrates 20 years – April 15

Oak Ridge Boys visit the Gogue – June 17

“From the Back Booth at Chappy’s” by David Housel is published – June 17

Twenty year old Agave plant grabs community’s attention when it blooms for first time – July 15

Beach Boys perform at Gogue – Oct. 7

Songwriter’s Festival is a hit in Opelika – Oct. 14

Standard Deluxe celebrates 30th anniversary with the Fall Boogie – Oct. 14

On the Tracks is back in Opelika – Oct. 28


Auburn City Council approves short-term rentals for some zones of the city – March 24

Citizens bring noise complaints to county commission – April 15

Medical marijuana bill passes Alabama Senate, Gov. Kay Ivey signs it into law – May 13

Rep. Jeremy Gray is selected as one of the nation’s outstanding rising leaders – May 13

Beulah’s Beat 13 votes YES to zoning regulations – May 20

Former DA Brandon Hughes changes plea to guilty on two charges, other charges dropped – July 1

Smiths Station holds 20th Founders Day Celebration – July 1

Auburn City Council member Steven Dixon sues the city over short-term rental ordinance – July 8

Citizens speak out against Opelika’s proposed rental ordinance – July 22

Creekwood Resources LLC is granted ADEM permits for proposed quarry – Sept. 2

Opelika passes rental registration ordinance – Sept. 23

County garbage collection plans create frustration – Sept. 30

Opelika’s Ward 3 Council member Robert Lofton resigns due to health reasons – Oct. 28

Candidates for Opelika’s Ward 3 Election announce their candidacies – Nov. 18, Nov. 25

Opelika City Council approves grant for archery range to open in Spring Villa in 2022 – Dec. 9

Lee County enacts noise ordinance – Dec. 16


Fire damages Pinehurst Villas and Chuck’s BBQ – Feb. 24

County continues to recover from 2019 tornadoes – March 3

Tragedy strikes Tallapoosa Girls Ranch – June 24

Auburn alumna, Jeanne Robertson dies – Aug. 26

Former Observer Co-Owner and Editor, Fred Woods, dies at 84 – Sept. 2

Monument installed honoring Tallapoosa Girls Ranch crash victims – Dec. 23


Shane Healy Named Opelika Police Chief – Jan. 20

Rita Smith officially named director of Lee County EMA – Feb. 24

Shane Boyd named Opelika Fire Department Chief – March 3

Micah Melnick named an Alabama Bright Light – March 17

Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller proclaims April 1 to be O Town Jake Day – April 8

Observer, LIVE Lee win 39 awards in annual APA Media Awards competition – July 1

Auburn beats Opelika in Big Bite Competition – July 10

Opelika Chamber of Commerce receives 5-star accreditation – July 29

Mary Ann Shannon named chief of staff of EAH – Oct. 7

Capt. Noah Allmond named Opelika Firefighter of the Year – Nov. 11

Brent Poteet named director of Opelika Power Services – Dec. 2

Lee County hires Holly Leverette as county administrator – Dec. 16

Laura Fuller, David Gunter USA Pickleball National Champions in 65+ Mixed Doubles – Dec. 23


Brandon Taylor helps save woman and children from Pinehurst Villas Fire – Feb. 24

Smiths Station unveils mural – April 29

Local man, Jon Brasher, saves life using CPR – May 6

Toomer Corner sit-in hits one year mark – June 3

Lee County Remembrance Project installs historical marker in Opelika – June 17

Auburn and Opelika hold Juneteenth events – June 24

Pepperell Baptist Church Celebrates 95th Anniversary – Oct. 14

Korean War Veteran Marker dedicated – Nov. 18


The Observer started 2021 unpacking from our sudden move from downtown Opelika to a temporary space on North Third Street. Crews were hard at work remodeling a new space for us while we got to work keeping you informed of all the important happenings in the county. 

In May, Neighborhood Tour Homes and Real Estate merged with us and Samantha Sweatman joined our full-time staff as editor of the real estate magazine. Hannah Lester was named editor of LIVE Lee magazine and Wil Crews became sports editor for the Observer. We also had the pleasure of working with 11 college interns during the year.

In late July, we moved into our new office in downtown Opelika, located at 223 S. 8th St.

As we say goodbye to 2021, we are setting goals for 2022 with the most important being, continuing to serve our community to the best of our ability. We are looking forward to offering some new and exciting tools for our customers and as always, we are dedicated to bringing our readers the relevant, local news that they deserve.

Thank you to our readers, advertisers and community partners. We appreciate each of you greatly.

So long 2021 — Thanks for everything.