Each year, Jeanette Ringley turns the Peoples Bank on â€śAâ€ť street into a winter wonderland.
Ringley, Peoples' business center manager, transforms the bank with her collection of Christmas decorations.
Wooden cutouts of Christmas carolers line the entrance walkway to a main lobby and banking area filled inch to inch with Christmas trees, snowmen, a life-size Santa and detailed holiday miniatures. Blue, green, red and white lights are draped across the ceiling and walls, shining on wreaths and a fully-decorated Christmas tree in the center of the room.
The holiday season became just a little brighter this week for three area families thanks to almost 70 locally owned and operated businesses and The Observer News Enterprise's shop-local Hometown Christmas program.
"Santa Claus came just a few days early for a few lucky families," said The O-N-E Publisher Michael Willard, "and he came early for the businesses that welcomed customers who spent holiday dollars inside the locally owned shops, restaurants and businesses that are so important to this region's economy."
Catawba County plans to provide more than $30 million total to its three school systems in the next four years for each to build a new elementary school.
The money for the schools comes mostly from county tax allocations and partly from N.C. Education Lottery funds.
The county set up a system in 2003 to reserve a portion of the tax rate each year for school improvements and construction, said Rodney Miller, the county finance director. In 2007, the county increased that allocation to also include lottery money, Miller said.
Catawba County children want high-tech gifts for Christmas this year.
Many also desire traditional presents that have filled the floors around American Christmas trees for decades.
Hundreds of county children recently wrote letters to Santa Claus, and The Observer News Enterprise intercepted those letters on their way to the "big man" in the North Pole. Dozens of those letters are available inside The O-N-E and Outlook today in "Dear Santa: What I Want For Christmas."
It is crunch time for construction crews at the new Newton-Conover Middle School and The Observer News Enterprise takes an inside look at the projects progress. Read more about the school in the Wednesday print and online editions of The O-N-E.
Be sure to visit The O-N-E Facebook page for an exclusive photo gallery of the school-in-progress, www.facebook.com/pages/The-Observer-News-Enterprise/73539327933.
Playing Hickory for the second time around, it was a much different result for the Newton-Conover girls basketball team.
Shynese Whitener scored 22 points and four Lady Red Devils reached double-digits, delivering the Lady Red Tornadoes their first loss of the season in a 57-52 win on Tuesday in Newton.
Kadesha Gibbs added 11 points for Newton-Conover (6-2), while Taylor Petty and Dashia Tipps added 10 points each.
Danasia Witherspoon led Hickory (9-1) with 19 points.
St. Stephens 51, Bandys 39
Chris Hefner scored 11 points and Kerigan Farley added 10 points to lead the Indians (8-3) to a non-conference victory against the Trojans.
St. Stephens turned a one-point lead in the first quarter into a 32-22 lead at halftime. That distance carried through the rest of the game, pacing the Indians to their second win over the Trojans.
Hayden Deal led Bandys (0-9) with 12 points.
Bandys 80, St. Stephens 26
CHARLOTTE â€” A quick glimpse at the numbers suggests the Panthers should focus on upgrading their defense next offseason.
But that's not necessarily the team's thinking as it begins to look ahead to 2012.
Although the Panthers rank 23rd in the NFL in total defense this year â€” as opposed to fifth on offense â€” general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera feel the defense is much improved over the last month.
The Panthers (5-9) have held three of their last four opponents to fewer than 20 points entering Sunday's game against Tampa Bay (4-10).
An annual tradition, The O-N-E gathered Santa letters written by Catawba County children and compiled them, days before Christmas.
Enjoy the letters below, and pick up the Thursday print edition of The Observer News Enterprise for a special section that samples the letters and holiday artwork by Catawba County children.
I have been a good girl this year. This is what I want for Christmas. An I Pad cover, I pad case, A bunny, A bunny Cage, and an outfit from Justice.
I have been a good girl All Year!
This photo of a Chevrolet Corvette outside Cynthia Travis' Newton home is The O-N-E news photo of the week.
The car went airborne Monday afternoon on Laffon Road in Newton, and its driver and passenger were transported to the hospital.
The car hit Travis' house, breaking several steel columns that held up the front porch.
Visit observernewsonline.com each Wednesday for The O-N-E photo of the week, and visit the site throughout the week for breaking news, complete coverage of Catawba County prep sports and more.