As the 2022 door closes and the new one opens, we wanted to take a look back at some highlights in Calhoun County this past year. Join us in celebrating all the moving and shaking that took place.
Best New Restaurants of 2022
Everyone loves a great Mexican restaurant, and Calhoun County has many. But one particular local one was so popular that they added a second location in 2022–Los Arcos at 121 Colonial Drive in Oxford. This restaurant, as well as their other location in Anniston, features classic Mexican chicken, beef, and seafood dishes, combo platters, lunch specials, and the best margaritas around!
One of the most exciting new restaurants we couldn’t stop praising this year was the Coldwater Mountain Brewpub, which opened its doors in February of 2022 by the owner and expert brewmaster Jason Wilson (former owner of Back Forty Brewing Co. in Gadsden and creator of the Back Forty craft beer brand). He was able to launch this new venture with the financial support of Earlin McWhorter and his partner Tommy Stevens. It has become a local favorite hotspot in Anniston with live music on the weekends, a great menu that has evolved in the hands of the recent co-owner and new executive chef Brett Jenkins (also current owner of NOLA and Harp and Clover in Gadsden), and of course, great draft beer! If you’re looking for a great place to hang, eat hearty, and drink heartier, then Coldwater Mountain Brewpub is the place to go in Calhoun County.
The Lush Garden Wine Bar and Lounge
We know. It’s not exactly a restaurant (though their appetizers, salads, and charcuterie boards are to-die for). But The Lush Garden Wine Bar and Lounge is one of the best businesses to open its doors in 2022 in Calhoun County, and you can get your fill of food, excellent wine and spirits, and entertainment at this classy lounge. The owners Courtney and Cotina Stroud are always coming up with creative ideas to give locals a unique experience, including their recent Lush 12 Days of Christmas. And how is their popularity going? We think the fact that The Lush Garden’s New Years Eve Party is SOLD OUT is proof that this new establishment will age well!
Best Festivals and Events of 2022
April 9-10 of 2022 marked the 20th anniversary of the Sunny King Criterium, which began in 2002 and features cycling races for professional and amateur male and female cyclists from around the world. It’s Anniston’s most celebrated yearly festival, and still going strong. Day one saw the twenty races take place on a closed course on Noble Street and surrounding streets for kids, juniors, and the amateur/pro races for adults. Day 2 of the Alabama Cycling Classic, the Piedmont Criterium, took place on the 10th.
Alongside the cycling races, the Noble Street Fest hosted an array of activities like the Sunny King Kid Zone with a rocking pirate ship, swings, a mechanical bull, spinning teacups, and live animal demonstrations from the Anniston Museum and Gardens. There were also great live musical performances from artists/groups Andrew May, Melanin Magic, and the headliner The Breakfast Club. This year, the festival had 70 vendors, 20 of which were food trucks or tents, offering Calhoun County’s finest foods from Immanuel Oriental Market, Train Station Cafe, Cutters Pizzeria, Dixie Dogs, Bonnie Ray’s, Called Coffee, The Funnel Cloud, Simone’s Kitchen ATL, Kin Express, and more. There were also arts and crafts vendors, and many local businesses were open to welcome spectators.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for April of 2023 for the next annual Noble Street Fest and Sunny King Criterium.
2nd Annual CHOPPED Culinary Countdown
Hosted by Chef Brett Jenkins, the 2nd Annual CHOPPED event, which took place on Noble Street August 26th during the city of Anniston’s monthly 4th Friday event, featured a culinary face-off between four local restaurants. The competitors this year were chefs from Coldwater Mountain Brewpub, Thai One On, Effina’s Downtown, and Rack and Roll Billiards & Sports Bar.
In this year’s competition, the former title holder Effina’s Downtown was the first to be eliminated, followed by Rack and Roll Billiards & Sports Bar. Thai One On was left to square off against the new Coldwater Mountain Brewpub. Chef Sam Sutcheleo took the win, receiving the coveted custom wooden chopping board. We’re glad he was able to go out with a bang, given that Thai One On closed their doors that evening for the foreseeable future.
The 33rd Annual Empty Stocking Gala
The Empty Stocking Gala was special this year, as the annual event was put on hold for two years due to the pandemic. However, their spirit of giving was not, as the committee raised the $40,000 needed to ensure all foster children in Calhoun and Cleburne counties received Christmas gifts the last two years. This year, the gala, a glamorous party with live entertainment, dancing, and exceptional food and beverage, came back in full force. Ticket sales from this event go towards purchasing the gifts contained in the wishlists for these valued children. We’re proud of this 33-year old event, and glad that it has returned in full swing, party and all!
Another annual event, much younger but just as worthy of mention, is the Alabama Jeep Jam, hosted at Combat Park in Eastaboga. It takes place on Veterans Day and features a jeep show, evening jeep convoy, 50/50 raffle, silent auction, and other fun activities for the entire family. Veterans get to eat free, and the proceeds go to fund the Wounded Warriors of Alabama. Next Veterans Day, make sure to make the Alabama Jeep Jam a celebration you take part in.
While there’s plenty of awesome holiday events happening in Calhoun County which we’ve covered in detail, there’s one in particular that draws folks annually from surrounding counties and even across the state line. That’s the Oxford Festival of Lights, which runs from late November through Christmas Eve. Cars get to take a leisurely mile-long drive through Choccolocco Park where they witness a dazzling light show of holiday displays–over 1 million holiday lights to be exact. Once viewed, folks can park and visit Santa’s Village for a visit with Santa, ice skating, holiday treats and drinks, and inflatables for the kids. Next Christmas, be sure to make a stop for the best holiday lights in the county at Choccolocco Park in Oxford.
Featured New Business
Steve’s Rare & Vintage Guitars
Our last (but certainly not least) shout out for 2022 goes to our pick for the best new business to open in Calhoun County. If you think music makes the world go round, then you need to check out Steve’s Rare & Vintage Guitars at 1211 Noble St. in Anniston. Steve Fambrough, an aficionado of vintage music equipment and instruments, opened his music and vinyl shop July 1 of 2022. He specializes in vintage guitars, amps, gear, and other instruments like keyboards, mandolins, bass guitars, accessories, and specialty T’s. Their other expertise lies in vintage vinyl LP’s, with highly anticipated announcements of newly obtained ones dropping weekly on their facebook page. They’ve also announced they’ll be offering guitar lessons beginning in 2023. If you haven’t already, make a stop at this top-notch business.