Conroe - Montgomery Edition | May 2021

CONROE MONTGOMERY EDITION

VOLUME 7, ISSUE 2  MAY 14JUNE 17, 2021

ONLINE AT

CURTAINS UP

When COVID-19 restrictions went into eect in March 2020, performing arts groups were among the many entities that were sidelined. Curtains closed; performances were shut- tered; and groups in Conroe credited season ticketholders, hoping funds would stretch just enough to get by. “It was terrible,” said Don Hutson, a board director and former music director and con- ductor for the Conroe Symphony Orchestra. “We had no way to bring music to the people.” Even as restrictions began easing, actors at The Players Theatre Co., the resident com- pany of the Owen Theatre in downtown Con- roe, pledged to keep their social circles small, restricting themselves to work, family and theater. When shows started back up in mid- to late 2020, the theater opened at 50% capac- ity, theater company representative Rebecca McDowell said. On March 2, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate, and the Owen Theatre reopened at full capacity. On June 1, Conroe’s recently ren- ovated Crighton Theatre will also follow suit. Local groups have unveiled their new seasons, which include lineups with shows such as “Tar- zan the Musical,” “M.A.S.H.” and “Matilda.” “We are ready to perform,” McDowell said. The community may be ready too; the rst show back after the mask mandate ended, “Footloose” at the Owen Theatre, was a big BY EVA VIGH Stage set for performing arts after pandemic closes curtains

The Crighton Theatre is wrapping up $1 million in renovations. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)

CONTINUED ON 16

Vaccine demand inMontgomery County stalls

IMPACTS

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CONROE - MONTGOMERY EDITION • MAY 2021

A stroke could have changed Charlie’s world. We made sure it didn’t.

For the patient or the caregiver, stroke is a nightmare. And too often, the outcome is thought to be a foregone conclusion. But it’s also a condition where the decision on where to go can determine the long-term impact. That’s where The Woodlands Hospital comes in, with its Comprehensive Stroke Center. Learn more at StLukesHealth.org/stroke . Because together, we can change a foregone conclusion. We have a teamwith the skills and experience to change the course and the outcome of a stroke.

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THIS ISSUE

ABOUT US

Owners John and Jennifer Garrett launched the rst edition of Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 with three full-time employees covering Round Rock and Pugerville, Texas. We have expanded our operations to include hundreds of employees, our own printing operation and over 30 hyperlocal editions across three states. Our circulation is over 2 million residential mailboxes, and it grows each month with new residents and developments.

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

FROMCHRISSY: One of the things people seem to have missed the most this last year was going to see live music and theater. Our front-page story this month takes a closer look at the performing arts scene in the Conroe area. During the closures, local performing arts groups discovered ways to adapt and now are coming back even stronger. Chrissy Leggett, GENERALMANAGER

Community Impact Newspaper teams include general managers, editors, reporters, graphic designers, sales account executives and sales support, all immersed and invested in the communities they serve. Our mission is to build communities of informed citizens and thriving businesses through the collaboration of a passionate team. Our core values are Faith, Passion, Quality, Innovation and Integrity.

FROMANNA: With about 31% of Montgomery County residents age 16 and older fully vaccinated as of press time, county ocials reported slowing demand in late April. As a result, the county’s vaccination hub will close June 3, ocials announced May 11. With health care continuing to be in the spotlight, watch for our annual Health Care Edition in your mailbox next month. Have an idea you’d like us to pursue? Email comnews@communityimpact.com. Anna Lotz, EDITOR

Our purpose is to be a light for our readers, customers, partners and each other.

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CORRECTION: Volume 7, Issue 1 On Page 20, Webb Melder was a board member under the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District's appointed board, but not the president. He did not serve as board president until he was on the elected board.

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • MAY 2021

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IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

COMPILED BY EVA VIGH

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3

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1097

LEWIS CREEK RESERVOIR

WILLIS

LAKE CONROE

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Blue Epiphany Winery

Bonjour Belle Salons

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COURTESY BLUE EPIPHANY WINERY

COURTESY BONJOUR BELLE SALONS

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ANNIVERSARIES 7 Riggs Pediatric Therapy , located at 11133 I-45 S., Ste. 190, Conroe, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in July. Riggs Pediatric is a pediatric speech therapy and occupational clinic that has recently added dyslexia, dysgraphia and reading intervention services. It accepts most major medical insurance plans along with several Medicaid plans. 936-494-0570. www.riggstherapy.com 8 Family Promise of Montgomery County is celebrating its 20th anniver- sary this year as well as a “renovation celebration,” similar to a groundbreaking, June 3 for its new guest center, located at 109 Commercial Circle, Conroe. The nonprofit organization empowers home- less families with children to transition out of homelessness and into stability in 90 days. Family Promise provides shelter, transportation, food, day care and emo- The Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce has named Scott Harper as its new president—a position he held nearly a decade ago—following the resignation of Brian Bondy in January. Harper has more than 21 years of nonprofit experience with 16 of those with the YMCA, accord- ing to a news release from the chamber. Harper was hired in January 2012 to serve as the chamber president before return- ing to the YMCA in 2016. 936-756-6644. www.conroe.org tional support. 936-441-8778. www.familypromiseofmc.org IN THE NEWS

3 Owners Tim and Christina Lynch opened a second location of Bonjour Belle Salons on March 15. Located at 920 Pine Market Ave., Montgomery, the business features an upscale hair salon and bou- tique. The first location is on FM 1488 in Magnolia. 936-588-6105. www.facebook.com/bonjourbellesalons 4 Pinch a Penny Pool and Spa opened a new location at 4489 W. Davis St., Ste. 220, Conroe, on April 19. The franchise sells pool supplies, including chlorine, tablets, pumps and filters. 936-701-0926. 5 A pair of local filmmakers is launching a film school in Conroe for high school students. Gary Parker and Bruce May launched nonprofit Indie Films Founda- tion in 2019 at 810 Holly Drive, Conroe. The foundation is a fully working film and television studio producing feature-length films, documentaries and television airing on Channel 21. At the film school, students will complete their own short film after learning the basic skills required to pro- duce, shoot and edit a complete project. The summer session begins June 14. www.indiefilmsfoundation.com 6 Conroe-based Pileco , a supplier of pile-driving equipment, plans to open a new facility in Conroe Park North. Pileco is currently located on East Davis Street off Hwy. 105 but will move to the new facility by 2022. 936-494-4200. www.pileco.com www.pinchapenny.com COMING SOON

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to the company website. 281-967-9799. www.blue-ephiphany.com 2 DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse is now open at 227 South Loop 336 W., Conroe, as of a May 4 press release. The 15,000-square-foot store has name- brand and designer shoes for women, men and kids as well as accessories such as scarves, jewelry and bags. 936-235- 7091. www.stores.dsw.com

NOWOPEN 1 Blue Epiphany Winery , a 15-acre vine- yard and winery located on Bryant Road in Conroe, opened a second tasting room in downtown Conroe on April 5 at 336 N. Main St. The tasting room features Blue Epiphany wines. The winery was founded in 2017 and offers red and white wines, mead, and oils and vinegars, according

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CONROE - MONTGOMERY EDITION • MAY 2021

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES

COMPILED BY ANNA LOTZ & EVA VIGH

SHSU, cityofConroe namenewstreet The city of Conroe and Sam Houston State University designated a new street leading to the college from I-45 as Dana G. Hoyt Avenue, honoring the rst female president of SHSU who established the College of Osteopathic Medicine in Conroe and retired in August, according to an April 22 release from SHSU.

PROJECT UPDATES

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Proposed Old Conroe Road extension The project involves building a bridge over the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and widening Sgt. Ed Holcombe Boulevard and Old Conroe Road to four lanes, connecting FM 1488 and Loop 336. Cost: $120 million Timeline: 2024-TBD Funding sources: federal, local funds look at what’s causing the conges- tion,” Koslov said. Other concerns identied include school trac, hospital access, and the lack of north-south and east-west connectivity, Koslov said, as well as safety. A second public meeting will be held in November, Koslov said.

Conroe Park North extension The city of Conroe is extending Conroe Park West Drive to Farrell Road over Crystal Creek and widening Farrell Road to four lanes to Seven Coves Road. Cost: $12.5 million Timeline: April 2020-August 2021 Funding source: city of Conroe As such, trac congestion is among the issues the study has already identied. “In 2045, you’ll notice almost every thoroughfare is [over capacity], which means we’re going to have congestion and potentially gridlock throughout the whole precinct. So that’s not sustainable. We need to

The street honors Dana Hoyt (left).

COURTESY SAM HOUSTON STATE UNIVERSITY

SHSU accepted its rst class of 75 medical students in fall 2020, according to the release.

HGAC pursuing Precinct 2mobility study

A mobility study underway by Montgomery County Precinct 2 and the Houston-Galveston Area Council is expected to conclude in a nal report next spring, HGAC ocials said during an April 22 webinar. The study process began in Sep- tember and is anticipated to result in recommended transportation projects

for the precinct, said Barbara Koslov, senior transportation consultant with Gunda Corp., which is part of the project team for the mobility study. Precinct 2 had a 2018 population of 139,053 residents, according to HGAC information. Study ndings predict the precinct’s population will more than double by 2040.

ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF APRIL 28. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT COMNEWSCOMMUNITYIMPACT.COM.

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TRANSPORTATION

Montgomery County forms new towing advisory board

New towing zones An ordinance went into eect in 2021 changing how nonconsensual towing for unauthorized parking is handled, and a new advisory board was created.

BY ANDREW CHRISTMAN

system, which had 24 zones. During a March 23 Commissioners Court meeting, the commissioners voted 4-1 to keep the new towing ordinance in eect with Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley voting against it. Riley voiced concerns about the fairness of the new system after hear- ing concerns from various companies in his precinct. “I’m concerned about the compa- nies that are not getting as many tows as they think they should,” Riley said. “I am concerned about the compa- nies that set up their storage lots as close to the 24 lots we had ... when we went to the four zones, some of these folks are just over the line and cannot get into the zone.” Riley also cited complaints he had heard in regard to confusion about the rotation and safety concerns. Noack said the process can be rened moving forward. Among those appointed to the towing advisory board, Amy Milstead, president of Milstead Towing, said she favors the rotation system. “The reason you voted for this last year was because of the reck- less driving from the tow truck drivers, multiple trucks on the side of the road at accident scenes and most importantly public safety, law enforcement safety and trac control,” Milstead said. During the meeting, Milstead said changes being implemented are being noticed by drivers in the southern district of the county.

Changes to Montgomery County nonconsensual vehicle towing rotations have caused confusion for several county towing businesses, but an advisory board created April 13 aims to better communicate the transition moving forward. During the April 13 Commissioners Court meeting, Precinct 3 Commis- sioner James Noack said the creation of the board was recommended by towing companies across the county. The board was unanimously approved by the court and will include two towing companies from each of the county’s four desig- nated districts. An ordinance came into eect Jan. 1 to establish a rotation among towing services with the county for nonconsensual towing, which occurs when vehicles are left unattended in unauthorized areas. According to the ordinance, the previous system resulted in too many trucks congre- gating at incident scenes. During a special session Feb. 12, Montgomery County Sheri’s Oce Capt. Tim Holield said zones were drawn into north, east, south and west divisions to match with patrol areas. He said if a deputy called for a tow, a company would be pulled from the rotation for faster service. The way the zones are established will now result in 15 companies being in rotation for each of the zones with the exception of the north zone, which will have 12 companies on call. The new zones replace the old

The new zones have fewer designated towing companies available on call in each area. Towing companies must have a lot in the zone to be able to operate in it. Towing companies

Towing companies per zone

12

North

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336

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towing zones to 24 four in 2021.

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SOURCES: MONTGOMERY COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

“Three months ago, there was nobody in the towing business that was happy,” Milstead said. “We are making progress.” Rebecca Bailey, a representative of A Plus Towing in The Woodlands, said the new rotation has been benecial in the southern zone. “The tow companies in the

south zone are working well with each other and the new rotation,” Bailey said. As of the commissioners’ April 27 meeting, all appointments to the advisory board had been approved. The Montgomery County Sheri’s Oce has declined to comment on changes to the towing system.

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • MAY 2021

NEWS BRIEFS

USRep.KevinBradyto retire: ‘This term,my 13th,will bethe last’

Virtual school planned to launch in Conroe ISD

BY ANDREW CHRISTMAN

with the students who are receiving that remote instruction,” Kelly said. Kelly said the plan is to have virtual schooling for students in grades three through nine for the rst year before expanding it to include grades 10-12. Null said the goal will be to have the school function like any other school in CISD, and if a student transfers for in-person learning, they will be on track to keep up with other students. Teachers at the virtual school would report to a physical location for instruction. State testing require- ments also require in-person testing. “This allows parents to come to a physical place to meet with me, counselors and teachers,” Kelly said.

Superintendent Curtis Null announced the preliminary plan for a virtual schooling option April 22. Null said as of the end of the current school year, the option for virtual schooling depends on whether the state will allow it, but bills in the Legislature may make it a possibility. “If they make the decision in June or July, if we weren’t already hard at work, we wouldn’t be able to make that deadline,” Null said. Null said the school hired William Kelly as the virtual school principal in March. “We are going to have CISD teach- ers who are full-time virtual teachers so they can spend a lot of live time

BY VANESSA HOLT

Speaking at the April 14 Economic Outlook Conference held in The Woodlands, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, RThe Woodlands, announced he will retire after completing his current 13th term in the U.S. Congress. Brady’s 8th District includes all of Montgomery County as well as por- tions of Walker, Houston, San Jacinto and several surrounding counties. Brady previously led The Wood- lands Area Chamber of Commerce, and he resides in the area. “I have an announcement, and I can’t think of a better place to make it than right here at the chamber I led, in the community I live, and to business and community leaders I admire and consider friends,” Brady said at the close of his statements at the conference. “I am retiring as your congressman. This term, my 13th, will be the last.”

U.S. Rep Kevin Brady, RThe Woodlands, spoke April 14.

ANDREW CHRISTMANCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Brady recounted some of his accomplishments, including becom- ing the third Texan in history to chair the House Ways & Means Committee. Among the legislation and other accomplishments in his career, he listed working on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, reforming America’s retirement system, ending the Aordable Care Act individual mandate and signing a national ban on surprise medical bills. Brady’s term expires in 2022.

Conroe ISD has hired a principal and is formulating its plan for a virtual school.

Plan in place

Conroe ISD outlined initial plans for virtual school. • Dedicated full- time teachers • State testing held in person

• Website planned at https://virtual.conroeisd.net

SOURCE: CONROE ISDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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NEWS BRIEFS

HomeDepotRegional DistributionCenter being built at Conroe’s remediatedsuperfundsite

Countybudgetdiscussionsbegin

BY ANDREW CHRISTMAN

Commissioners for Montgomery County began discus- sions regarding the scal year 2021-22 budget April 13. Montgomery County Budget Ocer Amanda Carter said the goal is to have a balanced budget for the upcoming scal year. Carter said some of the factors in her report include the county’s population growing by around 25,000 from last year and an unemployment rate at 7.8% as of February. “We expect this to be a lean budget year,” Carter said. “Personnel requests will go through a comprehensive vetting process.” Carter added departmental operating increases are asked to be limited to contract and statute changes. All capital requests will be prioritized against other depart- ments, and coronavirus-related requests, such as masks and gloves, will be presented separately as departments need them, she said. At an April 27 meeting, ocials said increased expenses for the county next year will include an operations deputy in the county judge’s oce, costing around $84,000; increased salary and benets for county court at law judges, costing around $40,000; a driver’s license center with two employees, costing $145,000; and several increased salary and benets for promoted positions within the Montgomery County Sheri’s Oce. The rst county budget workshop is scheduled for July 27.

BY EVA VIGH

Scheiner said. The Conroe Cresoting Co., which was closed in 1997 due to delinquent taxes, used three wood-preserving chemi- cals—pentachlorophenol, creosote and copper chromated arsenate—according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA lists the site as a superfund site, or a hazard- ous waste site, although it underwent remedy construction in 2003. “It’s basically been monitored for about 15 years nowwith no issues, but it’s been a little bit of a blighted development there on the east side of Conroe,” Scheiner said.

A Home Depot Regional Distribution Center is being constructed at 1776 E. Davis St., Con- roe, at the site of the former Conroe Cresoting Co., a wood-treating facility. Although ocials associated with the project are under a non- disclosure agreement and could not reveal the name of the company, Nancy Mikeska, director of community development at the city of Conroe, said in an email that the building will be a Home Depot Regional Distribution Center. According to Danielle Scheiner, executive director of the Conroe Economic Development Council, the 600,000-square-foot building is scheduled to be completed in July but will likely open this fall. The project will help reactivate the rail spur that crosses Hwy. 105 into the site, and it also spurred the extension of FM 1314 up to Airport Road, she said. “It has allowed the city to complete a road project that has been on our wishlist for a very long time, but until we got a user on it, we couldn’t do anything with it,” she said. Getting a company to purchase the land was an achievement due to the site’s history,

The center is under construction on Davis Street. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • MAY 2021

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

CITY& COUNTY

News fromMontgomery County & the city of Montgomery

County vaccine hub to close in early June MONTGOMERY COUNTY The vaccine hub at Woodforest Bank Stadium will close June 3 due to a lower demand for vaccines, Mont- gomery County ocials announced May 11. During an April 27 Montgomery County Commissioners Court According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 31.36% of the county’s population age 16 and older was fully vaccinated as of press time May 11. Around 73% of adults age 65 and up in the county had received at least one dose. BY ANDREW CHRISTMAN

2 incumbents, newcomerwincouncil election MONTGOMERY Results of the May 1 election show Byron Sanford will “We have a lot to do in the city, a lot of concerns,” Wilkerson said. “We want to listen to the citizens of Montgomery.” BY ANNA LOTZ

join Montgomery City Council in Place 5 and incumbents Carol Lang- ley and T.J. Wilkerson will keep their seats in places 1 and 3, respectively. “Since I had only been on [council] for ve months, I’ve got a lot to learn and get busy at,” Langley said. Langley and Wilkerson received 61.72% and 60.63% of the vote in their races, respectively, according to Montgomery County results.

Additionally, Sanford, who is the pastor of Dacus Baptist Church, will take incumbent Tom Cronin’s seat. “I’m the new kid on the block. But I do look forward to representing all the constituents in a city that’s got every reason to be optimistic,” he said. Results were expected to be canvassed and ocials sworn in May 11 after press time.

VACCINES DISTRIBUTED Nearly a third of residents age 16 and older in Texas were fully vaccinated as of early May.

meeting, Jason Millsaps, executive director of the county’s Oce of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the county has been seeing the number of vaccina- tions slow. “Last week was the slowest week we have had,” Millsaps said April 27. Millsaps said May 11 the county providers will continue giving rst doses of the vaccine, but they will be done through clinics at their private facilities. “It has been a long time coming,” Millsaps said May 11. “It is unbeliev- able to think we have been at this almost six months. It has been a great experience.”

Montgomery County*:

Percentage of county population receiving at least one dose: 45.73% Percentage of county population fully vaccinated: 31.36%

Montgomery County Commissioners Court May 25 and June 8 at 9:30 a.m. 501 N. Thompson St., Ste. 402, Conroe 936-756-0571 • www.mctx.org MEETINGSWE COVER

300 W. Davis St., Conroe 936-522-3000 • www.cityofconroe.org Montgomery City Council

Texas:

Percentage of state population (age 16+) fully vaccinated: 39.13%

May 25 and June 10 at 6 p.m. 101 Old Plantersville Road, Montgomery 936-597-6434 www.montgomerytexas.gov

Conroe City Council May 27 at 9:30 a.m., June 10 at 6 p.m.

SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER *POPULATION AGE 16+ AS OF MAY 11

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • MAY 2021

DINING FEATURE

BY EVA VIGH

THREE DISHES TO TRY

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Wings OverMontgomery 14335 Liberty St., Montgomery 936-597-7030 www.wingsovermontgomery.com Hours: Sun.-Mon. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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Co-owner Damon Haynes opened the restaurant in honor of his grandfather.

The Texas Wae and Wings ($5) comes with syrup and butter.

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Wings OverMontgomery Local restaurant dedicated to famed Texas lawyer Richard Haynes T he memory of criminal defense lawyer Richard Haynes lives on at Wings Over Montgomery, a quaint restaurant located on Liberty Street in the city’s historic district. the jury would convict the accused. “He was a showman,” Damon said. “He always said, ‘I don’t judge, but I do make them pay.’”

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hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, Damon said. “[It is] a place to bring your family and feel comfortable,” he said. “It’s a hybrid of Wing Stop, Bualo Wild Wings and Chick-l-A.” As for the name, Damon said it was chosen in tribute to his grand- father, who he said is watching down over him. The food—which includes bone- less and bone-in wings and several side options, such as Parmesan truf- e fries—is free for police ocers, reghters and pastors. “We don’t necessarily need the second income,” said Damon, who has another full-time job. “We want our kids to grow up and do the right thing. That’s what this restaurant represents.”

Damon said he was very close to his grandfather, even doing some clerical work, such as serving subpoenas. He keeps memorabilia of Richard in the restaurant as well as on the historical property he owns next to Wings Over Montgomery. Damon opened the restaurant in November as a way to remember his grandfather and give back to the community. According to Damon, Richard loved to people watch, and he usually did not visit high-prole restaurants. That concept spilled over into Wings Over Montgomery, which has an outdoor deck next to a busy road and a down-to-earth,

Richard is the grandfather of Damon Haynes, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Cindy. The famed Texas lawyer was known to take on seemingly impossible cases, and his courtroom theatrics included cross-examining an empty witness stand and shocking himself with a cattle prod. He once almost hammered a nail into his hand during trial to prove it was not that painful, although he reportedly changed his mind at the last minute. According to Damon, Richard feared that if he inched,

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

PEOPLE

BY EVA VIGH

RobertWalker Montgomery County Precinct 1 commissioner

Robert Walker was sworn in as the county’s Precinct 1 commissioner Jan. 1, replacing Mike Meador, who was the county’s longest-standing commissioner. Walker sat down with Community Impact Newspaper to discuss his background and rst few months since taking oce. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. TELLME A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY. ONE PLATFORMYOU RANON IS BEING FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE. HOWHAVE YOU

TAKEN THAT ONAS COMMISSIONER? I was taught the value of a dollar when I was a young man. I’m very careful on the way we spend our money. We are xing to have to buy a couple new pieces of equipment—which … is very expen- sive—but anybody who knows me knows I am very thrifty with a dollar. WHAT ARE SOME BIG ISSUES COMMISSION ERS COURT IS FOCUSING ON? The biggest issue right now is emergency services with COVID-19. Also, the new tow truck rotational system, which was before my time, is an ongoing thing. We are going to leave it to the sheri. … As commissioners, we are trying to stay out of it, but we always seem to be drawn back into it. I don’t really like to see government getting into everyone’s business, but sometimes there has to be regulations.

Our family has been here since like 1876. I grew up in Conroe, graduated Conroe High School in 1975 and attended Sam Houston State University for a year. I watched Conroe grow from a small little sleepy oil eld town to what it is now. I’ve worn many hats. We owned a convenience store back in about 1989. I was a reserve deputy with the Montgomery County Sheri’s Department when I was in my 30s, so about 1990/1991, then later on I was a reserve deputy for the Constable Precinct 1. I opened up Walker’s Feed & Farm Supplies [in Willis] in 1993. I built houses till about 2 years ago when I ran for this oce. If you asked me 40 years ago, I would never have imagined I was going to be a county commissioner. Mike Meador was my cousin, and after following him around for all that time, I’ve learned all the politicians. I love people; it t right in with me.

Robert Walker began serving as Montgomery County Precinct 1 commissioner Jan. 1.

EVA VIGHCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

WHAT IS AN ISSUE SPECIFIC TO PRECINCT 1? For me, it’s roadways. We are growing on a regular basis, so just keeping our trac moving and safe [is important]. We’ve had some new studies done on where we need new connector roads; we got those back on [March 23]. That’s a long-term project; it takes time to build these roads.

Discover our Membership Opportunities At The Club, the days are long and the nights are full of music. Over here, the fun starts early and stays up late. There’s no work, no worries and nowhere to be in a hurry. When you’re here, you’re free to be yourself, and the only thing pulling at you is the music. To join the party, there’s just one question you have to answer: ARE YOU READY FOR A CHANGE IN LATITUDE?

For more information or to set up a site tour contact our Director of Membership , Lori Granato, at lori.granato@margaritavilleresortlakeconroe.com

15

CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • MAY 2021

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

Local performing arts groups and artists were all shuttered during the pandemic but found ways to adapt.

THE PLAYERS THEATRE CO.

Conroe Symphony Orchestra hired its rst female conductor, Anna-Marie Gkouni, in March. The orchestra is also pivoting to provide more interactive performances. 936-760-2144 www.conroesymphony.org CONROE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

During the initial stages of the pandemic, actors in The Players Theatre Co. pledged to limit their social groups so they could safely rehearse. 936-539-4090 www.facebook.com/ playerstheatrecompany

PHOTO COURTESY FORD & COMPANY

PHOTO COURTESY TREVOR HALL PHOTOGRAPHY

building deteriorated—the orchestra pit was lled with stagnant water, dead pigeons and rodents—before being restored in the late 1970s. Owned by the Crighton Theatre Foundation, the theater again underwent restorations last year, which were mostly wrapped up as of late April, said Amy Sowers, the president of Stage Right, the theater’s resident company. The renova- tions, which cost about $1 million, include a new, larger lobby; 12 additional restrooms; and a new concession area. Stage Right could not nish its season when pandemic restrictions went into eect and had to refund money from ticket sales, Sowers said. From February to December, there were no shows. “So, that’s no income during that time,” she said. In December, Stage Right reopened with limited capacity; the Crighton seats over 500, but the max- imum allowed was 180. In the rst show, “Peter Pan,” Stage Right lost money; musicals typically cost between $15,000-$18,000 to build the sets and purchase costumes and props, Sowers said. Still, the show was magical, she said. “Peter Pan and Wendy and the kids were ying,” she said. At the Owen Theatre, which is owned by the city of Conroe, shows have likewise begun to pick back up. The Players Theatre Co. began reopening in May

2020, McDowell said. Although the return was slow and cautious with one director choosing not to do her show at all, McDowell said the audience was thrilled to be there. “People were coming out and going, ‘Thank you so much for doing this,’” she said. A time to pause When the musicians at Conroe Symphony Orches- tra were forced to stop playing, board members said they used the time to strategize. “We were given the gift of time, [although] it didn’t look like a gift at the time,” said 359th District Court Judge Kathleen Hamilton, who also sits on the Conroe Symphony Orchestra board of directors. The board began to rethink its approach to perfor- mances. Concerts typically last a couple of hours, and audience members sit and listen to classical pieces from composers, including Bach and Beetho- ven, Hutson said. But a new idea emerged. Hutson said the vision is to create interactive, family-friendly performances in conjunction with other area performers to draw in more people, espe- cially young people. “Maybe it’s a Cinco de Mayo concert in The Wood- lands,” he said. “[There’s Latin] food, and we have dancers; we have guitarists; we have singers, … peo- ple who are showing us their art, their dance, and

CONTINUED FROM 1

success, McDowell said. “We sold out performance after perfor- mance after performance,” she said. “People were ready.” Some groups such as the Conroe Symphony Orchestra used the downtime to recoup and rethink the way music is performed by creating more interac- tive events, Hutson said. Plus, with a new performing arts center in the works in Conroe, local performers anticipate the stage has been set for increased sup- port and creativity in the performing arts. “It’s like what happened at the end of [World War II]. ... After the war, there was an explosion of artis- tic creation,” the symphony’s director and conduc- tor Anna-Marie Gkouni said. “I think the same will happen when people have the chance to get back together again. We will see great things.” Lifting the curtains The historic Crighton Theatre opened in 1935 on North Main Street after then-Mayor Harry Crighton decided to open a grand theater, according to the theater’s website. The Crighton ourished for years but began to decline as drive-in theaters became popular. After closing in the 1960s, the condition of the

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

STAGE RIGHT

Resident theater company Stage Right is putting on performances at the Crighton Theatre with limited capacity. The recently renovated theater will open at full capacity June 1. 936-441-7469 www.stage-right.org

PHOTO COURTESY STAGE RIGHT

EMILY COLE

Singer and songwriter Emily Cole, who lives in Montgomery, used the downtime to learn how to produce her own music. 281-731-9732 www.emilycoleocial.com

The city of Conroe is considering converting Conroe ISD’s old Sam Houston Elementary School into a new performing arts center that will serve both local and visiting performing arts groups. SAM HOUSTON PERFORMING ARTS CENTER EVA VIGHCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

PHOTO COURTESY SHERRY LITTLE

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES Plays and shows are starting back up again. Conroe Symphony Orchestra (Free) 600 Margaritaville Parkway, Montgomery 7:30 p.m. July 3 at Margaritaville Lake Resort

it’s a day of experiences.” In March, the board also hired its rst female con- ductor, Gkouni, who hails from Greece. Meanwhile, solo artists also found themselves sud- denly sidelined during the pandemic with extra time on their hands. Singer and songwriter Emily Cole, who lives in Montgomery, has performed at various local events and venues, including Ransoms Steak- house & Saloon in Montgomery, the Red Brick Tavern in Conroe and the Conroe Cajun Catsh Festival. Her performances came to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit, she said. “Everything kind of stopped for a solid two or three months,” she said. “I went from having two to three gigs a weekend [that were] up to four hours long to nothing.” In the downtime, Cole took a production class led by One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, where she learned how to produce her own music. She is producing her upcoming album, and the album’s rst single, “Dumb,” was released April 30. Newperforming arts center For years, Conroe ocials and arts enthusiasts have mulled over bringing a new performing arts center to the city. Arts groups have said they are lim- ited for space, sometimes using churches or sharing facilities to perform.

A feasibility study conducted by Gareld Public Private was presented to City Council on Sept. 11, 2019, but the study’s initial cost estimate of between $66 million-$89 million concerned city ocials. The study’s original proposed locations are no longer being considered, according to Marsha Porter, City Council member and the city’s arts liaison. The city is in discussions to convert Conroe ISD’s old Sam Houston Elementary School to a new per- forming arts center that would be smaller and cheaper than the one proposed by Gareld, although a cost estimate is not yet known. The city has leased the building back to the district for three years, but it is possible the lease may be broken early, Porter said. “[This center] is not in any way meant to be in competition with Crighton or Owen Theatre,” she said. “It’s just a dierent animal altogether.” Porter said she and a few others are scheduling meetings with arts groups to discuss their needs and wants for a new facility. Local groups have expressed support for the project. “It will absolutely transform the arts of Con- roe,” Hutson said. “The benets of this thing are signicant.”

Crighton Theatre ($17-$26) 234 N. Main St., Conroe “M.A.S.H.” June 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End,” June 25, 26, 27 “Tarzan The Musical” July 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25

Owen Theatre ($25) 225 Metcalf St., Conroe “Cabaret” May 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 “The Foreigner” June 25, 26, 27, July 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 “Matilda” Sept. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19 SOURCES: CRIGHTON AND OWEN THEATERS, CONROE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRACOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • MAY 2021

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