barbecue, police, lewisville

Badgers BBQ closes shop

Published in The Denton Record-Chronicle on May 20, 2015

Badgers BBQ, a Lewisville restaurant, opened last August–with a grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 4. However, the family-owned restaurant recently closed its doors, according to a post on the BBQ joint’s Facebook page.

Badgers, owned by Emilee and Erich Klein, served family-style barbecue, but they also want to use their restaurant to honor “the badge”: law enforcement, firefighters and soldiers in the community. Hence the name Badgers.

The restaurant has received mixed reviews on the Facebook groups Flower Mound Cares and Lewisville, TX-Community Blabber.

“Badgers is decent, nothing spectacular. Definitely try Fat Cow next time, best BBQ in Denton County last 2 years running,” one user wrote in the latter Facebook group.

Lisa Strickler, another user of the group, wrote that the Kleins were struggling to stay open because the landlord for the property left a plumbing problem for two months, killing their business.

“He just recently fixed it and they have put everything they had into this business,” she wrote. “Pray for them to overcome a bad landlord and people not understanding, for all the good work they have done not to go away. Good people, excellent food in mass quantity.”

Erich Klein only said the building was incompatible with their needs. So he is looking for a new location.

Until the Kleins reopen elsewhere, send them a message on Facebook for ordering barbecue.

tacos, lewisville, los alisos, barbacoa

Los Alisos offers authentic street tacos at affordable price

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on Feb. 17, 2016

Los Alisos Restaurant is an unlikely spot for some of the most delicious “street tacos” I’ve ever tasted.

The Mexican restaurant sits at the end of a strip center occupied by an Exxon gas station and a tire shop at the corner of Holfords Prairie Road and Business 121 in Lewisville.

On Wednesday, Steve Southwell and I stopped for a bite before shooting photos at the Coyote Drive In site just down the road. There was no line and only two other customers sat at their tables eating.

Inside, the menu and TV stations were displayed in Spanish language but the cashier spoke English and helped us with our order. We ordered at the counter and received our food at our table within five minutes.

First, we each ordered half-liter bottles of “Mexican coke” at $2.50 apiece instead of choosing popular Hispanic drinks like Juaritos or Topo Chico.

Steve ordered the Durango plate with three gorditas: chicharron, or pork skin; rajas, with green poblanos and cheese; and desebrada, with shredded beef and a spicy red sauce.

He opted to not help write the review, but said “The rajas could have used more cheese. The chicharron tasted fine, but pork skin had an odd texture, like eating fat. The desebrada was delicious and I’ll definitely order it again.”

The $7.50 plate came with rice and beans, “which were nothing special” and looked mediocre in quality.

I ordered three, two-bite tacos made with flour tortillas. They looked small in the fast-food basket with the burn marks that signify home-style tortillas. They never fell apart.

The meat in my tasty barbacoa taco was portioned well in the fluffy tortillas. It was moist and not too chewy.

The fajita taco, my least favorite, had grilled onions which added to the quality of the taco. The meat texturally felt more like ground taco meat than true fajita-quality beef, but tasted at the much higher price point.

On each taco’s last bite, I drizzled a little of the provided lime; but each time, I preferred it without the citrus addition.

None of the tacos had toppings other than meat, cilantro and onions. The barbacoa and pastor were more flavorful and less overpowered by the cilantro and onions.

The pastor taco had moderate heat. Neither of the others were spicy. I would have liked the opportunity to add jalapeños or otherwise spice up the dish—though I recognize spice isn’t in true street taco spirit.

The three tacos, at $1.40 each, were filling enough for a light lunch bit a larger dish is recommended if you’re really hungry.

The Mexican restaurant doesn’t market itself as a taco joint and its menu is dominated by other dishes. And, the menu had fewer options and toppings than Denton taco joints like Flatlanders and Rusty Taco.

But, when looking for a true “street taco”, Los Alisos fits the bill. They were much cheaper and more authentic—as if actually purchased off Mexican streets.

Coyote Drive-In adds sixth screen in Lewisville

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 18, 2015

Flooding in the spring slowed construction on a new drive-in theater complex in Lewisville, but it also paved the way for an added benefit.

Fort Worth-based Coyote Drive-In plans to have new screens open for business in Lewisville in time for summer blockbuster season in 2016.

The bad weather in the spring set back many construction projects in Lewisville, but particularly outdoor projects, Mayor Pro Tem R. Neil Ferguson said.

If there’s good news about the delay, the heavy rain created an opening to add a sixth screen to what was originally planned as a five-screen experience, Ferguson said.

In January, neighborsgo reported that Coyote Drive-In was making plans for a Denton County location. Coyote Drive-In planned to open its second location on 35 acres in eastern Lewisville near U.S. Highway 121 Business, Sam Rayburn Tollway and Fish Hatchery Road.

It marks the return of a drive-in theater to Lewisville since a two-screen theater on Business 121 closed in the early 1970s. Coyote Drive-In opened its first theater in Fort Worth in 2013.

“This one’s gonna be even better,” said Glenn Solomon, a partner of Coyote Drive-In.

At the time of the original plans, officials hoped to open by the end of the 2015. However, plans have changed and construction should begin next month, ending just in time for 2016’s blockbuster season sometime in the spring, Solomon said.

“Right now, we are still fighting an uphill battle with construction costs,” he said. “We have not pulled the trigger even though our plan was, and is, to start in October.”

On Sept. 14, the Lewisville City Council unanimously approved an amended special-use permit for the theater, upgrading the theater from a five-screen venue to a six-screen venue.

“It has been great to work with all of the staff and elected officials in the city of Lewisville,” Solomon said. “They have been really first-class people to work with.”

Last month, Solomon made a presentation to the Lewisville Planning and Zoning Commission. He explained that, at the time of the original application, he was not aware that they had land available where they could add the sixth screen, according to a report in The Lewisville Texan-Journal.

“But [the new screen] isn’t the biggest change,” Solomon said. “It’s really the entrance that has changed.”

The entrance has moved down more into the middle of the property, further east on Midway Road, to improve traffic flow. The new plans also add an exit on Holford’s Prairie Road to ease traffic after movies end.

“Parkway Contractors had been working all summer preparing the site,” Solomon said at the council meeting. They hoped to start construction in early October to start next year.

Ferguson said he has seen “an avalanche of local interest” in the drive-in.

“The plans for the whole complex is just dynamite,” he said. “It has so much to offer, like entertainment that goes beyond movies such as live music.”

The best part of the drive-in, he said, is that the interest in the venue is far-reaching.

“I expect folks from several counties and, over time, more than a few states, to come sample Coyote, and many will return over and over,” he said. “It is like the roller coaster aficionados: Some will want to come just to say they have been to this drive-in. But I believe there is a solid long-term return crowd that will keep Coyote Drive-In thriving for decades.”

Ferguson, who has worked in retail site planning, said the drive-in could be a draw for other businesses to move into the area. But, he has not seen any specific plans for other developments yet, he said.

“It is fair to say that savvy developers constantly look at opportunities around the country, and their radar attuned particularly to emerging regional draws,” he said. “I can tell you successful retailers are already noticing the future potential of this location.”

Coyote representatives expect about 250,000 annual visitors to the Lewisville location, according to the Texan-Journal. The company expects 140 cars each weeknight and 750 cars each weekend night during summer months.

The Lewisville City Council unanimously approved the original special-use permit on Jan. 5 for a drive-in theater that would fit 1,500 cars on the property. The new plans show the theater can accommodate 1,711 cars.

The company plans to keep admission prices the same across locations: $8 for adults, $6 for children ages 4 to 10 and free for kids 3 and younger.

The theater will also have an open-air pavilion, a kids play area and a 10,000-square-foot restaurant. Beer and wine will be available in the restaurant.

The main difference between the Lewisville and Fort Worth locations will be that Lewisville will have an indoor, air-conditioned and heated space for the restaurant in addition to outdoor beer garden seating, Solomon said in January.

Jenna Duncan contributed to this report.

Homegrown distillery is on the move in Lewisville

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 17, 2015

If you’ve driven around Old Town Lewisville in recent months, you may wonder what’s happening where the abandoned Piggly Wiggly once stood at 225 S. Charles St.

It’s the start of a move city officials are excited about. The homegrown Witherspoon Distillery is expanding its operations from its previous location at 545 N. Cowan Ave.

James Kunke, a spokesman for the city, said he’s also excited to see the work being done at the new location.

“They are giving a beautiful facelift to a building that has sat vacant for many years, and they will serve as another draw for visitors to historic Old Town Lewisville,” he said. “Witherspoon is a sponsor of Western Days and we all hope they will be able to open in time for the festival, but whenever they open it will be a great addition for the area.”

The 15,300-square-feet building was constructed in 1988. It’s divided almost equally in thirds for liquor production, barrel storage and the bar and retail area — with an additional outside sitting area of 4,000 square feet.

Construction is slated for completion by the Lewisville Western Days festival, Sept. 25- 26, said Quentin D. Witherspoon, master distiller and the namesake founder.

Natasha Dehart, head of sales and marketing and a founder, said the business partners looked at multiple locations all over Lewisville.

“The city has been so supportive so we really wanted to stay here. But there were a couple other locations that just ended up not being feasible cost-wise or that things just didn’t work out,” she said. “This property presented itself just kind of out of the blue.”

Dehart said that if the distillery opens by the festival, she will consider it a soft opening with an individual grand opening “about a month after the craziness from the festival dies down.”

“The city is very supportive of us going in here,” Dehart said. “We plan to be a part of pretty much every festival that happens in Old Town Lewisville.”

The company is scaling up significantly with new, customized equipment, Witherspoon said. While the new location is only about a mile from where the distillery currently stands, it will be closer to downtown Lewisville. To commemorate the upcoming move, the distillery is selling new T-shirts.

Witherspoon, a former Marine, founded the distillery with his business partners Laurent Spamer and Ryan and Natasha Dehart in 2011. He developed a passion for distilling spirits while in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic where he was one of five tasked with protecting American diplomats.

The Marines formed relationships with international diplomats who shared specialty beverages from across Europe with them, not anticipating the lack of refrigeration. At the time, Witherspoon was in charge of filtering drinking water from the Congo River. As the goods spoiled, Witherspoon decided to distill the wine into brandy and the beer into whiskey.

The business became licensed as a distillery in 2012 and has been pumping out whiskey and rum since. It is Witherspoon’s second attempt in the area; he tried to start a wine vineyard in Flower Mound in 1995.

In 2013, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported that founders were already working on plans for expansion, “looking at historic spaces in Lewisville to convert into a destination distillery, where the company will be able to provide tours, serve drinks and sell bottles — thanks to new legislation passed this session in the state Legislature.”

Witherspoon partnered with Glazer’s, an alcohol distribution company, and asked for its input on what customers wanted in a product instead of waiting to see if anyone would buy the final version.

“We’re throughout the state of Texas now and our expectation is that sometime in 2016, we should be able to bounce out of the state into a couple other states,” Witherspoon said. “We’re currently doing our first ever single-barrel project with Total Wine [liquor retailer] and we’re really excited about that, and we’re going to continue to experiment.”

The founders hope to experiment with brewing beer and are already looking at candidates to hire for helping with the brewing side, they said.

“Quentin’s passion has always been on the spirit side,” Natasha Dehart said. “Me and my husband have been home brewers. Our plan is to very soon acquire a brewer’s permit and start serving beer out of the bar. We’re hoping to offer our first beers later this fall.”

Distilling equipment also functions as brewing equipment. As a regular part of making whiskey, distillers essentially start making beer, adapting the process along the way. So the equipment setup can easily be modified for beer production.

“These guys are making beer all day long; it just doesn’t have hops and they end up distilling it,” Natasha Dehart said.

Right now, the company sells whiskey and rum in Goody Goody Liquor, Total Wine, Spec’s, Fossil Creek and to several independent clients in the D/FW area. The spirits are Witherspoon’s River Rum (a white rum), Bonfire (a cinnamon-infused rum), The Cross Timbers Single Malt Whiskey, and Witherspoon’s Texas Straight Bourbon and River Rum Reserve (an aged rum only sold out of the distillery).

After the expansion, Natasha Dehart said they plan to make and sell brandy, vodka and an agave spirit similar to tequila.

“Basically, we’ll be making any liquor type you’d find at a fully stocked bar only for sale in cocktails and stuff at our bar,” she said. “It will allow us to test the market and see if these are things we’d eventually want to take to a wider distribution.”

Dehart said that the Cowan distillery had about 200 visitors for tours a week, which offered quite the testing setup for what to take to the market.

“Our goal is to hold as many tours a week as we can accommodate,” she said. “We’ll probably start off with just a few days a week and then we will also have a fully stocked bar which will be open a few days a week and extend hours as demand grows.”

Witherspoon’s new location will also serve as an event venue, such as concerts, birthdays and weddings. The founders are already booking events as early as October, Dehart said.

“We actually designed this outdoor space to accommodate live acts both inside and outside,” she said. “We changed design about halfway through the process because we didn’t have any space for live acts in the original plans.”

The new location will have a shuffleboard table in the bar area, and a cornhole beanbag game setup for play outside. It may also offer a regulation-sized bocce ball court. Founders have also been in touch with multiple caterers, all within a ten-mile radius of the new location.

“Also, next to the beer garden is going to be an electrical box and paved area where we can fit two food trucks that can serve right over the fence,” Dehart said.

The old property was a lease and will be turned back over to the leaseholder. Some of the equipment won’t be put into use.

“We’re surprised by how much growth we’ve seen in the last few years,” Natasha Dehart said. “We hoped for it and planned for it, but when it actually happens, it’s exciting.”

Jenna Duncan contributed to this report.

Bat at Lewisville’s Lake Park field tests positive for rabies

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 25, 2015

Lewisville city officials asking for help in identifying children who were seen playing with a rabid bat between baseball fields 7 and 8 at Lake Park sometime between 10 and 11 a.m. Saturday.

The bat tested positive for rabies but the children were gone before animal services arrived on the scene and they still have not been located, said Ethel Strother, animal services supervisor for the city of Lewisville, said Friday.

Bats aren’t too common in the area, especially during the day.

“Any wild animals, even stray cats, you should call animal control and report it because they can carry rabies,” she said. “if you see any nocturnal animals during the daytime, like bats, skunks and raccoons, you should contact the authorities immediately.”

Strother said that she doesn’t want to start a panic, but the incidence is cause for concern. Bats have such small teeth that they could bite a victim who might not even know they’ve been bit.

“So it’s urgent that the kids come forward because they have a 10-day window to start the rabies vaccinations,” she said. “We’re already on Day 6.”

During that 10-day window, bite victims won’t show rabies symptoms, so once the flu-like symptoms start, it’s too late to start the treatment series.

“Nearly all the fatal cases in Texas came from a bat and people didn’t even know they were bit at the time,” she said. “The thing is, we don’t know how long the bat was there before those kids found it. Maybe another group of kids touched it first. There was the potential to have a lot of traffic in that area in that day, so we don’t know.”

If you can help identify the exposed children, call animal services at 972-219-3478. For more information, visit

Bright Realty behind new Aldi in Castle Hills development

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 29, 2015

Aldi plans to begin work on its new location on the southeast corner of Josey Lane and Windhaven Parkway in the first quarter of 2016.

The grocer will anchor the 13-acre retail site in Castle Hills, which is being developed by Bright Realty. The land includes six other commercial pad sites and two other tenants are currently under contract, according to a news release.

Aldi has plans for more than 450 grocery stores in Texas, The Dallas Morning News reported in February. As of early 2015, Aldi opened 89 stores across the state since 2010, with 52 in North Texas and 19 in Houston.

Bright Realty’s 2,600-acre master-planned Castle Hills community has almost 4,000 single-family homes.

“The projected population growth within a mile of this development is more than 20 percent in the next five years,” said Chris Bright, CEO of Bright Realty, in the release. “We are proud to be a part of that activity and success for the area.”

For more information, visit or call 972-410-6600.

The man behind Hat Tricks joins Lava Cantina

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on Feb. 4, 2016

In the early 2000s, Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano bought a mom-and-pop dart bar to turn into the concert venue of his dreams. Coach Joe’s Hat Tricks, a 300-person bar and restaurant, officially opened its doors Dec. 3, 2003.

Over the 12 years Tony Avezzano, his son, owned and operated the venue, Hat Tricks booked musical acts that rivaled Dallas County clubs like Bomb Factory, Trees and the Verizon Theater. Hat Tricks was featured in an article in Rolling Stone magazine, made multiple Dallas-centric “best of” lists, and won awards for its food.

Last year, Avezzano sold his obsession to local entrepreneur Jason McDermott. He said he has mixed emotions about leaving Hat Tricks behind.

“We worked really hard to establish it as a live music venue and a credible place to eat good food,” he said. “I’m proud of what we did. But I’m just as excited to move on to a new chapter and a different direction.”

Avezzano said he did everything from managing the bar and staff to bar-tending and cooking himself.

“It was a full-time, 7 days a week and 365 days a year obsession,” he said. “My mom and I even had our Thanksgiving dinner there with customers who had no other place to go.”

He was also responsible for bringing in all of the venue’s musical acts, he said.

“We consistently booked shows that were probably too big for that little place over the years and were fortunate to have artists visit us more than once,” Avezzano said. “That’s what we built our reputation on.”

Hat Tricks also made a name for itself hosting premier acts in the Red Dirt music scene including Cross Canadian Ragweed’s Cody Canada, Jason Isbell, Dean Dillion and Courtney Patton.

“We housed more than 30 high-profile musicians and garnered acclaim from local food blogs,” Avezzano said. “It just felt like we made it to our peak.”

He said even he’s surprised by the acts he was able to land at Hat Tricks.

“The artists and bands that were loyal to use make me look a lot smarter than I am,” he said. “It’s just about treating people right the first time and then treating them just as well when they came back around.”

Avezzano said that, over the years, brokers would reach out to him by email and offer to buy the place. He decided to answer an email from McDermott on a whim last fall.

“We weren’t looking to sell it, but three days later, we were already negotiating a deal,” he said. “It was time for fresh eyes, ideas and energy in Hat Tricks. I know Jason will do that.”

McDermott and Avezzano are different managers, each said, but Avezzano isn’t worried that McDermott will make “wholesale changes” that cause Hat Tricks to become unrecognizable.

“I’m anxious to see the changes he makes and how the staff and customers react to it,” Avezzano said. “They are needed and will help the business carry on for another 20 to 30 years.”

McDermott told The Lewisville Texan Journal that his operation will “keep the high standard and well-respected systems that have made Hat Tricks what is become over the years.”

Avezzano said farewell with a bang on Jan. 26, hosting Fort Worth country favorite Josh Weathers and singer-songwriter Mike Ryan from San Antonio. The show filled the club.

Coincidentally, Avezzano was offered a position at the new Lava Cantina that recently broke ground in The Colony. The 28,000-square-foot live music venue, which is expected to open in October, also brings high quality Mexican and Creole Fusion and live music.

“It’s going to be fantastic to have Lava Cantina in The Colony,” Avezzano said. “The venue caters to people north of Interstate 635 and all of us who drive 45 minutes to see shows in Dallas. It gives Denton County a spot of its own.”

The company also owns and operates Rock 101 Grill in Frisco and a Lava Cantina location in Baton Rouge. Avezzano will be responsible for booking all the concerts and events at the venue in The Colony. He will also focus on booking the larger touring bands and headliners for the other locations.

Avezzano said he’ll try to book everything from country, bluegrass and blues to rock and roll, rap and pop. Over time, it may gravitate towards specific genres as they analyze ticket sales and customer feedback.

Ian Vaughn, the owner and founding partner of Lava Cantina, said his father, Steve Vaughn, will book the local musicians and smaller acts for the other venues.

“My dad has been in the music industry for more than 50 years and is widely connected,” he said. “They will divide and conquer to a full schedule of quality entertainment.”

Lava Cantina will offer 20-25 large concerts on an outdoor stage, with a retractable roof, and an occupancy of 1,800. An indoor stage will hold smaller shows with a capacity of 500.

“The only thing that will stop shows outside will be absolute electrical [lightning] downpour or a freeze of some sort,” Avezzano said. “And food will be available all through concerts and events.”

Lava Cantina also boasts Patrick Stark of Suede and Sundown at Granada as head chef, House of Blues general manager Marc Mann, and Chris Harman, a general manager with On the Border, as front house manager. Ian Vaughn is the former COO of Cane’s Chicken Fingers.

“I’m almost more excited to work with and learn from this unbelievably experienced group than anything else,” Avezzano said. “I have my work cut out to keep up with them.”

Vaughn said he’s thrilled that Avezzano agreed to join his team.

“It’s mind boggling who he’s had play at a smaller place like Hat Tricks. He’s been a massive competitor to the entire D/FW music scene,” Vaughn said. “To take that talent and give him a venue he can spread his wings in, with the amenities he’s always wanted in an amazing location with high traffic counts, is the perfect cocktail for success.”

Staff writer Philip Moulard contributed to this report.

LHS student wins state poetry competition

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on March 5, 2016

Lewisville High School senior Madison Heggins, 18, won the Poetry Out Loud state championship, a contest of the National Recitation Contest, last Saturday at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. The Texas Commission on the Arts hosted high school students from across the state.

“It feels pretty incredible. I never expected to be the state champ,” she said. “It’s cool that my hard work with Ms. Squibb has paid off and I made it this far.”

Heggins won the school $500 for the purchase of poetry books and materials, and received $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to represent Texas on the national stage at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. from May 2-5. The winner of the national competition will receive a $20,000 scholarship.

Carmen Tafolla, the 2015 Texas Poet Laureate, served as master of ceremonies for the event. Poets Laurie Filipelli, Carrie Fountain, Brian Francis and Tomás Q. Morín judged 25 students, each having first won their school competition, on articulation, evidence of understanding, accuracy and overall performance.

National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation created Poetry Out Loud in 2006. They administrate the competition with the help of state arts agencies in all 50 states and Washington D.C. More than 370,000 students competed in 2013, according to a press release.

In the competition, students present three memorized poems from the Poetry Out loud anthology: one must be 25 lines or fewer, another must be written before the 20th century, and a third was the contestant’s choice.

This is the first time LHS has participated. Eight students interpreted poetry in preliminary trials at the school. Participants said Poetry Out Loud differs from other interpretation competitions.

“We walked in to state at a disadvantage,” Heggins said. “I had to focus more on my voice and face rather than presentation, like usual.”

In other competitions, contestants focus on body movement and physical expression, she said. At Poetry Out Loud, performers focus on their connection to its meaning shown through tone of voice and facial expressions.

LHS Killough sophomore Destinee Aguirre also placed in the top ten.

“Destinee did so well because she has a beautiful tone in her voice and a willingness to learn,” Heggins said. “She connected with the poems she chose in every way and you can hear it. I could listen to her all day.”

Heggins said her own voice also resonates with audiences.

“After joining speech and debate, I can project more emotion and portray different ‘characters’ when performing a poem,” she said. “I create a different person for each poem.”

Sally Squibb, a speech and debate teacher at LHS, said that Heggins and Aguirre stand out as interpreters because of their deep understanding of the poetry.

“They both love it,” she said. “It took them six months to prepare.”

Squibb said they used a microphone in the school’s lecture hall for practice.

“Destinee would ride the bus back here [from Killough] three days a week after school to practice,” she said. “We appreciate the support of the school in these endeavors.”

In most contests, students have a binder with the poetry in front of them. But, in this contest, they were limited in what they could choose.

“That makes it more difficult because they had to go through hundreds and hundreds of poems to find ones that they already knew, or that fit their voice or physical movements,” she said. “But, the hardest part was memorizing all the poems and then bringing them to life.”

Aguirre selected “Spanglish” by Tato Laviera, “A Poison Tree” by Robert Blake and “Weighing In” by Rhina P. Espaillat. Heggins performed “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson, “Self-Help” by Michael Ryan and “Black Boys Play the Classics” by Toi Derricotte.

She chose “Richard Cory” because she has performed it for a few years and was comfortable with it. Anger and frustration dominate ‘Self Help” and she interprets dramatic poems better than happy poems—and people have claimed its their favorite performance of hers, she said.

But as a black teenager, she relates to “Black Boys Play the Classics” the most, she said, particularly through “how the author uses metaphors to show how racism has affected society and black children.”

“The first poem I ever performed was a poem on racism, as are many of the poems I perform,” she said. “My own writing has to do with racism because it’s such a prevalent thing in society and in my life right now, and will be throughout my life.”

Her love for poetry started as a hobby at an early age, she said, but as she got older, it became more than that. Poetry has shown her what she wants to do with her life.

“I want to go into journalism because poetry has showed me the impact that writing can have on people and events,” she said. “Like poetry, journalism talks about cultural issues and gives a voice to the voiceless and that’s why I do it.”

The inaugural “Original Poetry-Writing” contest will also take place at this year’s national finals. Nuyorican Poets CafeSlam Poet Patricia Smith will the judge of students’ writing.

Heggins will interpret an original piece because “It’s a wonderful opportunity for young writers,” she said. It will be her first time performing one of her pieces in front of others.

“I love Patricia Smith. She wrote a lot of work that I’ve performed,” Heggins said. “I want to do slam poetry because I think it’s what I’m best at.”

Heggins said she usually doesn’t get nervous until she’s onstage, but it fades fast once she starts performing. But, she thinks she’ll be more nervous when performing her own poetry.

“It’s harder to perform your own stuff than other people’s writing,” she said. “So my next challenge is sharing my own writing which is a raw piece of me.”

Lewisville ISD third graders enjoy symphony performance

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on March 12, 2016

Last Friday, the Lewisville Lake Symphony performed a closed concert for all Lewisville ISD third graders in two performances at First Baptist Church, 1251 Valley Ridge Blvd. in Lewisville.

Each concert lasted almost an hour and a half.

“Aaron Ming, our conductor, talks to the students before each piece to explain what they should listen for,” said Diane Busche, the Marketing Chair for the Lewisville Lake Symphony. “They are respectful, attentive, and in awe of the large and beautiful space they are entering at the church.”

During the concert, musicians also talked about and sampled each of their instruments. Students seemed to particularly enjoy hearing the piccolo, played by Juli Powers.

“It’s a great to see the energy and excitement from the students,” said Lewisville ISD Superintendent Kevin Rogers. “We provide the opportunity for students to hear a great local symphony and to experience all different types of culture.”

Indian Creek Elementary School student Steven Solis, 9, said his favorite song was the Star Wars selection.

“I liked the symphony a lot, especially the percussion,” he said. “It was helpful to hear them talk about the instruments and I learned a lot.”

Amareya Clay, 9, a fellow Indian Creek student, said her favorite piece was also Star Wars because she’s seen the movies before. She hopes to get dressed up and go back to the symphony someday, she said.

“It was really cool because it was a new experience and I loved to see all the instruments because I rarely see instruments,” she said. “I hope I learn to play an instrument. My favorite one they talked about was the drums because I love loud sounds.”

Dan Lewis, the principal cellist, has performed with the Lewisville Lake Symphony for almost 30 years.

“These kids make a really well-behaved audience and the teachers prepare them really well,” he said. “We’re just trying to capture the audience when they’re young before they develop any prejudices against classical music.”

Viola player Sonja Ryburg said that reaching out to the children is “the most important thing the symphony orchestra does.”

“It gives us energy onstage to see so much energy in the room, and it’s never distracting because we expect it,” she said. “Hopefully they will choose an instrument to play or come to symphony concerts.”

Marissa Rick, the music teacher at College Street Elementary School, is one of three music teachers that organized the event. Rick attended the elementary school as a child and has been teaching there since 1998.

“It’s very powerful for the kids because it goes right along with the state mandated TEKS that we’re teaching in class,” she said. “So it’s great for them to see and hear real life instruments as opposed to a poster of an instrument.”

Rick said that it’s contagious to see the children’s enthusiasm.

“They dress up nice and know they’re coming to a wonderful concert,” she said. “Kids say that this is the best day of their lives and want to take their parents to the symphony.”

Excitement for the symphony program has grown each year of its existence since it started four years ago, Rick said.

“It’s neat that this is now a tradition. The little kids look forward to being in third grade so they can come to the symphony,” she said. “We appreciate the Lewisville Lake Symphony working with us to make this happen and the fine arts in LISD.”

Lewisville church displays relics of St. Charbel, patron saint of Lebanon

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 29, 2015

Relics of St. Charbel, the patron saint of Lebanon, will be on display at a Lewisville church Monday and Tuesday.

The relics, which include part of the saint’s skeleton, are visiting Maronite Catholic churches throughout the United States. All are invited to see the relics of the 19th-century monk at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, 719 University Place in Lewisville.

St. Charbel has been credited with miracles worldwide.

Parishioner Nada ElGhreichy said her brother was injured during the Lebanese civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990.

“He got a bullet in his head and was in a coma for two months. Doctors said if he survived, it would be as a vegetable,” ElGhreichy said. “He said Saint Charbel appeared to him seven times. Now my brother is alive, married and lives in Frisco.”

ElGhreichy said she expects people to come from across North Texas to see the relics, particularly to pray after recent terrorist attacks in Beirut.

“I have many friends that are not Maronite or Lebanese, but they pray for Lebanon,” she said. “We have some members of the church drive from Mesquite, Fort Worth and farther to attend Mass.”

ElGhreichy said she returns to Lebanon every year. It has become tradition to go visit the monastery where St. Charbel lived.

“Many people are healed through their visits and they leave there crutches there,” she said.

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in Beka-Kafra, Lebanon, in 1828. He joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, when he was 23 and took the name Charbel. Charbel became a monk in 1853 and was ordained a priest in 1859, spending most of his religious life at the Annaya monastery. He died of a stroke during Christmas Eve Mass in 1898.

Pope Pious XI proposed Charbel’s beatification and canonization in 1925. Miracles attributed to him multiplied after his grave was opened for inspection in the canonization process in 1950. Followers from different religions started making the pilgrimage to the Annaya monastery.

Pope Paul VI canonized him in 1977. St. Charbel was the first Maronite saint formally canonized in Rome.

The Rev. Assaad ElBasha, a priest at Our Lady of Lebanon, said St. Charbel is revered worldwide among all Catholics.

Maronites, unlike churches in the Roman Catholic rite, are governed by a Roman Catholic diocese and a Maronite Catholic eparchy. The Roman Catholic diocese overseeing Our Lady of Lebanon is in Fort Worth. The eparchy, led by A. Elias Zaidan, is in St. Louis.

Our Lady of Lebanon parishioners were excited Sunday as they prepared to welcome Bishop Michael Olson of the Fort Worth diocese to their Monday night Mass.

Mattye Thompson, parish secretary of Our Lady of Lebanon, said visitors may touch rosaries to the handcarved reliquary, which would transform it into a third-degree relic of St. Charbel, meaning it touched a second-degree relic and would be considered blessed.

“It’s incredible we get the relics at the church,” she said. “I didn’t feel worthy to touch it.”

On Monday, a veneration of the relics will begin at 3 p.m., a liturgy of the hour will start at 6 p.m. and Mass will be at 7. Rosary will follow at 8 p.m. On Tuesday, there will be a rosary at 8:30 a.m., a Mass at 9 and veneration from 10 to noon.

These are the second relics to draw worshippers to a Catholic church this month. The body of St. Maria Goretti, of the Roman Catholic rite, was displayed in a glass coffin at Dallas’ St. Monica Catholic Church in early November.



“It’s incredible we get the relics at the church,” says Mattye Thompson, parish secretary of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church.