This is our anniversary week. Seven years ago, we transitioned from Lowell Leads the Way – a summertime project hoped to improve morale in the city – to Lowell’s First Look, a full-blown news organization.
We look a little different now. From our original three owners, we are down to one. But we have also added a group of talented contributing writers and guest columnists. (Interested in joining their ranks? Drop me a line at [email protected]).
On occasions like this, it’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane. So let’s take a moment to review the top articles from every past year of our existence.
First, however, a quick refresher on how you can stay up to date on the latest Lowell news.
- Sign-up for our weekly e-newsletter – Each Friday, we send a rundown of all the week’s articles so you never miss a story.
- Facebook – Our main social media account.
- Twitter…er, X – A few (and we do mean few) people follow the news here.
- Instagram – Our home for random photos taken while out and about in Lowell.
- Threads – Yes, we have an account. No, we don’t post regularly.
Lowell’s First Look doesn’t put its news behind a paywall because we want everyone to be informed about what’s happening in the community. That doesn’t mean we don’t have expenses though, and it takes countless hours to research and write articles as well as maintain the site.
If you find value in what we do, will you please consider supporting our work?
You can “buy us a coffee” on Ko-Fi (suggested tip is $3), or you can become a subscriber on Facebook for 99 cents a month (look for the button under the cover photo). That is a brand-new feature so you get a cool badge for now, but we might add other subscriber benefits in the future.
And with all that out of the way, here are the top stories from every year of LFL history.
2016: Is RollAway Going Away?
In all of 2016 – including our summer months posting as Lowell Leads the Way – we had 10,969 human visitors. Now, we have more than that each month.
When we closed out the year, the top story was a profile of the now defunct Vela Bake Shop, but since then, this story about the RollAway Fun Center has eclipsed it. (Actually, 20 other articles have eclipsed the Vela profile at this point.)
This article about RollAway has probably garnered many clicks over the years because the fun center did indeed close. There was an unsuccessful attempt to turn it into a marijuana store before a company was more recently given the green light to demolish the building and build a 39-unit apartment building plus commercial space. All that needs to happen now is for the court system to hand over Horatio Street to the developer.
Does this concern me? Absolutely. Not only does the project not fit the neighborhood, but resident concerns have been basically brushed aside with no dialogue from local leaders. In the latest twist, the city attorney has rendered a legal opinion – one that City Council never seemed to request based on a review of meeting video and minutes – and councilmembers are now being asked to reconsider their opposition to the vacation of Horatio. It certainly makes it seem as though someone in the city is working very hard to make sure this project moves forward.
Anway, getting off my soapbox…
2017: COMING SOON…BIG BOILER BREWING
In 2017, we were still getting our sea legs, but everything was starting to fall into place. The article with the most views from that year is this preview of Big Boiler Brewing.
Tina, one of our co-founders, typically worked behind the scenes so we have relatively few articles with her byline. However, the ones she did write proved to be immensely popular. I’m not sure how she first heard about Big Boiler Brewing, but this preview of the restaurant made many people eager to stop by after its opening.
While many restaurants have opened and closed in Lowell over the years, Big Boiler Brewing is still with us.
2018: Surprising Sight in Flat River Causes Concern
This was the year of our most successful April Fools’ Day joke. In 2017, we posted about the biodigester reopening, and that may have sparked more fury than laughs. So we went for something more innocent and outlandish in 2018.
If you’ve heard this story before, I’ll apologize for the repeat, but our series of April Fools’ Day articles was inspired by a 1980s newspaper article outlining plans to stock Michigan lakes with sharks. I may have been channeling that article when I came up with this story.
This article was popular with my youngest kids too because they got a plastic shark that provided hours of entertainment long after April 1.
2019: Ambitious Road Plan Unveiled for Lowell
By 2019, it seemed as though people were finally figuring out who we were. While still often confused for the local paper, it didn’t feel like we were explaining quite so frequently what Lowell’s First Look was.
The top article from this year was another April Fools’ Day story. This one may have looked legit because we borrowed a drawing from a 2018 walkability study as the feature image. Gondola rides from the highway to Lowell’s downtown were among the ideas that didn’t make it into the final article.
Fun fact: Originally, the 2019 April Fools’ Day article was going to be about the Showboat being given a “burial at sea.” We envisioned it being allowed to float down the river while flaming arrows were shot at it. But then the city went and ruined that by actually demolishing the Showboat in February. Killjoys.
2020: Green Acres Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19
2020 was the year that COVID hit. It was also when we had a significant flood in the city, saw the police chief resign amid controversy and watched as pieces of the new Showboat arrived. But the appearance of COVID-19 in Lowell garnered the most clicks, and this article remains the top story from that year.
This year also marks the first time we crossed the 100k threshold, with nearly 109,000 human visitors paying our site a visit in 2020.
2021: Scenes from Lowell: What’s Going Where Edition
Readership continued to climb in 2021, and we started getting requests from readers to cover various things around town. One suggestion was to do a story about all the construction taking place in Lowell. We obliged, and the result was an article that is not only the most popular piece of 2021, but of all time.
Compared to many of the other articles we publish, it didn’t take long to cruise down Main Street and snap photos of various construction sites. Thanks to our coverage of Planning Commission meetings, we already knew what businesses were approved to go where. Once published, this story seemed to be shared again and again whenever someone asked online about what was being built at a specific spot in Lowell.
2022: Changes Afoot at the Kent County Youth Fair
The Kent County Youth Fair has been a staple of Lowell summers for decades, but nothing can ever stay the same. Change is often difficult, and that seemed to be the case at the fair as some longtime volunteers and employees left over concerns with the direction being taken for the new fairgrounds. This article outlining changes at the fair is the most-viewed story from 2022.
Despite some bumps along the way, the Kent County Youth Fair did make it to its new location in 2023. However, the work isn’t done and watch for the fairgrounds off Cascade Road to continue to evolve in the years to come.
The year isn’t over yet so we won’t share the top article for 2023 yet…plus adding another article wouldn’t quite fit the title of “7 articles in 7 years.”
Thanks for joining us on this stroll down memory lane and thank you for your continued support of Lowell’s First Look. We continue to strive to be a place where you can find coverage of all the local stories that are important to you.