Renee's favorite stories of 2019

Staff writer Renee Wielenga reflects on her favorite stories of 2019.

Almost weekly I get asked "How do you come up with story ideas?"

Much of that is attending city meetings, talking with area business owners or visiting the library. Sometimes it's combing Facebook. Other times it's noticing a flyer, hearing what people are talking about in church or in the grocery store. Or getting submitted ideas from community members. 

While I got to cover some big community happenings — the bond vote and groundbreaking of the new high school facility as well as the naming and opening of Siouxnami Waterpark and mayor Dennis Walstra's death — the ones I chose as my favorite bring me back to the interviews for those stories. Interviews during which I got to meet one-on-one with real people sharing something they're passionate about, which got me excited to share that story. 


  • Doing an interview in a lawn chair next to a soldier's grave site remains a chilling but fond memory of 2019. Probably my favorite actually. We couldn't have asked for better June weather either. Perhaps Arlin took it up with a higher power to make that arrangement so he could listen in on those in his hometown remembering this fallen soldier.

  • I've eaten my share of pork chops, sausage, bacon and ham. I've been in hog barns of our some of our proud pork producers and I've taken plenty of swine pictures at the local fair, but never had I ever seen, touched or took a selfie with Iowa's large hog. I can't wait to see if Brutus will return to the 2020 Big Boar Contest. I promise to bring you a marshmallow if I get to see you again.

  • We all set goals. Moses De Groot embodies not just living out those goals but pedaling forward into success as I got to follow up with the Sioux Center Christian School student as he completed his goal of biking to school daily. FYI, he continues to ride bike to school this year too. I have the privilege of seeing him come past my house on his way to school on occasion. I haven't given up my four wheels but I have opted to walk to interviews and meetings with the downtown area. He's right; the exercise is refreshing!

  • Farmers have a passion not just for what they do, be it growing crops or raising livestock, but they also have a passion to support others. If you don't believe me, let me tell you about the tears I saw fall as these farmers shared why they wanted to support other farmers miles away in Nebraska.