We-Ha.com looks back at West Hartford’s most read stories of 2015.
By Ronni Newton
As the calendar year comes to an end, I always think it’s interesting to take a glance into the rearview mirror to see which West Hartford stories and issues attracted the most attention.
We-Ha.com celebrated its first anniversary in September, and this first full year in business has certainly been a busy one! During 2015 we published more than 1,600 stories, and you, our readers, logged nearly 750,000 page views.
Stories covered a wide range of topics, including business openings and closings, events, features on residents, sports, school activities, missing persons, burglaries and other crimes, sports, animals, and weather.
These stories touched everyone’s lives in different ways and left impressions that won’t soon be forgotten.
Here are the 15 most read and most talked about stories of 2015. Are you surprised? We’d love to hear what you consider the top stories of the year.
- Silver Alert issued for missing West Hartford teen. Thanks to our caring readers, this story received hundreds of shares and came in as our top story of the year. Luckily the missing teen was found, unharmed, and the story was quickly updated with a new headline.
- The story with the second-highest number of page views was also a missing person story, about a West Hartford woman who went missing early in December. Terry Hansen was located, safe, the following day and a subsequent story was also sent out with a breaking news alert. That good-news story was also among the top 10 most-read stories of the year.
- It didn’t take long for a food story to appear on the list of West Hartford’s top reads! The news shared on Dec. 1 2015, about Chick-fil-A’s plans to open a restaurant in West Hartford took first prize in the number of Facebook “Likes,” with more than 6,300. Look for more details to come in 2016 as Chick-fil-A officially submits its application to construct the restaurant on New Park Avenue, near Aldi, Home Depot, and BJs.
- Food takes another top spot! There was an enormous amount of excitement when we broke the news on March 25 about the Prospect Café reopening in West Hartford. The restaurant had a soft opening with a charity event on Sept. 25, 2015, and its official grand opening on Sept. 28. Co-owners and brothers Paul and Jeff Emery recently hosted the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon-cutting and reception.
- News of the impending sale of three key pieces of West Hartford Center real estate, first reported on Dec. 3, 2015, takes fifth place. Sinatro Brothers LLC closed on the sale of the properties – a large portion of the east side of LaSalle Road as well as two buildings on Farmington Avenue – on Dec. 16. LaSalle Road Partners LLC is the new owner, and look for more information soon about the partnership’s plans for the property.
- Another missing teen story, published in November, was also among the most-read stories of the year. That boy was also located unharmed.
- Many of you read the sad news about my own neighborhood pizza place, South Main Pizza, closing its doors at the end of June. The space is still empty, but I will eagerly share the news as soon as a new tenant is secured.
- Two women exhibited unusual behavior in a visit to Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford in early December, prompting an investigation by West Hartford Police. There have not yet been any updates to this story.
- Rail station to be built in West Hartford. This story was published when design plans were released in January 2015. Plans appear to be progressing, and we will keep you posted!
- One of our Business Buzz columns (Dec. 21, 2015) rounds out the top 10, but if you were to add up all of the Business Buzz columns they would definitely take the top prize. In fact, the Dec. 28, 2015 Business Buzz column had nearly as many page views. On average, Business Buzz is consistently the most popular feature on We-Ha.com.
- West Hartford will celebrate this weekend, a guide to all that was planned for the 2015 Celebrate West Hartford, was one of the year’s top stories. Planning is well underway for the 30th Annual Celebrate West Hartford, scheduled for June 4 and 5, 2016, and the entire committee will have its kick-off meeting in January. Look for more information forthcoming about volunteer and other opportunities, and of course a guide to the 2016 event.
- Peek inside the 2015 Junior League Show House. A sneak peek is always a popular story, especially when it’s a peek inside one of the town’s stately Tudor mansions. The transformation by the area’s top designers was certainly amazing, as can be seen in the photos from the follow-up visit!
- Peek inside World of Beer. Sneak peek, food, and beer combined makes a story guaranteed to resonate with West Hartford residents, and this one did not disappoint. World of Beer opened in January 2015, and I have followed up with multiple visits, most recently to sample New England Brewing Company’s rare “Fuzzy Baby Ducks” IPA.
- Police stories tend to get a lot of attention, so not surprisingly we find one among our top 15 stories. There were two unrelated robberies in West Hartford over Thanksgiving weekend, one of them at gunpoint and the other involving the robbing of an elderly parishioner of St. Thomas who was carrying the collection plate to the rectory. An envelope containing the stolen checks (not the cash) was recovered in Bloomfield, but there is no other news to report on either robbery. We will certainly report any news about the apprehension of the suspects when it is made available.
- West Hartford Historic District Commission hopes to save historic 1918 bungalow. Most West Hartford residents highly value the diversity of architecture in this town, and hate to see it disappear. There were several updates to the story that was first published on July 9, 2015, but on the morning of Sept. 17, 2015, the bungalow was demolished.
I chose to highlight 15 stories, because that number went well with 2015, but as I read through this list I realize that what I consider to be some of the top stories didn’t quite make the cut. There were some other food-related stories that just missed getting top billing (Posh Tomato’s opening, NoRA Cupcake Company’s opening, Damon’s Tavern’s closing), as well as some major retail news such as the opening of West Elm and plans by Bluemercury to open in what is now the former Lululemon space at the corner of LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue.
There were some other major police stories like the three bank robberies that happened within a week’s time (all solved) and the Dec. 15 story about the robbery of a gas station that was solved when the suspect not only left his ID behind but also stole a cellphone equipped with the “Find My iPhone” app.
There were multiple stories published about the Board of Education vote to retain the Warrior and Chieftain names at Hall and Conard high schools but require new logos. Added all together, the topic would have probably made the top 15, but even on on its own the story about the Board of Education’s decision was read by several thousand people.
There were also a few heartwarming stories that certainly deserve mention, including Rob Bouvier of Bouvier Insurance’s donation of a wheelchair van to a handicapped man in Enfield whose life was transformed when he was once again able to leave his house. The West Hartford community also rallied to support resident and cancer survivor Kim Green when several of her friends set up a GoFundMe campaign which to date has raised more than $16,000.
We don’t cover the weather on a regular basis, and certainly won’t send out a breaking news alert when a few snowflakes fall in January, but we will keep you informed about weather-related issues like road conditions and school closings. And if a major weather event is forecast, we will bring you all of the needed information like we did with West Hartford “blizzard central” when a blizzard appeared certain to hit West Hartford on Jan. 26.
I’m still in search of a moose story, but we did have a few major animal stories in 2015, including my up-close-and-personal encounter with a bear that was removed from West Hartford yard after being tranquilized. I also learned a lot about raptors through the stories about “Baby Delamar“ – multiple videos and stories about the red-tailed hawk dubbed “Baby Delamar” that was hatched in a lone pine tree left on the construction site of the Delamar West Hartford Hotel. We reported on the hawk’s hatching and watched as it grew and was nearly ready to fledge when it became ill. I watched the West Hartford Fire Department and a wildlife biologist from DEEP rescue the young hawk from the pine tree. It was whisked off to Tufts Wildlife Clinic but sadly died 10 days later.
I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring, and look forward to another year of bringing hyperlocal news to West Hartford!
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