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Talk of the town
Turlock lion still on the prowl; 'Billie Jean' gets Pride treatment
Pitman Jackson
Brett Nichols wowed Pitman High School and more than 16 million YouTube watchers with his spot on Michael Jackson performance. - photo by Photo Contributed

Top Posts of 2014 on Facebook/turlockjournal

1. Oakdale man arrested for sex rendezvous with Turlock girl, Dec. 26 — 146K reach

2. Turlock man proposes on Christmas Tree Lane, Dec. 23 — 66K reach

3. Declaration sheds light on Jura's sexual assault allegation, Oct. 27 — 58.1K reach

4. Mountain lion makes another appearance in Turlock, Sept. 30 — 53.2K reach

5. Jura's owner arrested for sexual assault, Oct. 20 — 48.2K reach

6. Man grabs Turlock girl walking to school, Oct. 9 — 47K reach

7. Turlock woman turns the tables on robber, Sept. 25 — 37.9K reach

8. Pitman student's Michael Jackson performance goes viral, May 21 — 34.1K reach

9. Police search for missing Turlock boy, Nov. 15 — 33.4K reach

10. Thousands seek employment at Hilmar Cheese hiring fair, Oct. 28 — 26.7K reach

Turlockers had a lot to talk about in 2014, from multiple mountain lion sightings to a high school talent show performance seen the world over. The following is a list of stories from the past year that received quite a few likes, shares, comments and clicks — along with some old-fashioned word of mouth.


1. Mountain lion on the loose

Reports that a mountain lion was prowling around the area first surfaced in mid-September when a caretaker of a Hilmar ranch reported the death of a 600-pound horse by a bite to the neck. A few weeks later, a resident of Tuolumne Road reported that his dog may have had a run in with a mountain lion that left the pit bull with a gash across its head.

The first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion roaming Turlock was on Sept. 21. The mountain lion was spotted by residents in the area of Anning Drive and N. Johnson Road. Several Turlock Police officers responded to the area and confirmed seeing the mountain lion, which was estimated at about 90 pounds. Later that night California Fish and Wildlife officials were inspecting the animal’s tracks when it jumped down from a tree, bounded over a fence, and was lost in the darkness.

An off-duty police officer saw the mountain lion on N. Quincy Road in the wee hours of the morning on Sept. 30. That same morning, a California Highway Patrol officer also reported seeing a mountain lion in the area of Santa Fe Avenue and E. Zeering Road.

The cat also made an appearance on Barbara Way, Lester Road and in the parking lot of Emanuel Medical Center.

Local schools issued safety warnings and a few activities that were scheduled to be held at Crane Park, across from Turlock High School, were canceled or moved to another location.

There hasn't been a reported sighting of the mountain lion since early October, but that didn't stop Turlockers from creating a plethora of cougar memes on social media, making mountain lion a top costume for Halloween parties and it was even the focus of a public forum question for the mayoral candidates.

Who knows when the Turlock mountain lion will make another appearance?


2. Pitman student channels Michael Jackson

Pitman High School junior Brett Nichols grew up watching Michael Jackson videos religiously, but little did he know one day he would be the center of attention with his performance of the late superstar’s famed song "Billie Jean" generating over 5.5 million views in one day after being uploaded to YouTube.

Nichols saw his world turn upside down since the uploading of the footage of his uncanny performance at the Pitman High School’s talent show in May, including national interviews on CNN and "The View."

In July, the local dancer was asked to perform on stage with Who’s Bad – the Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band in San Francisco. Nichols spent the rest of his summer making a variety of appearances.

“I’m just really happy that I’ve gotten such really good publicity compared to other things that you see. It’s just generated such positivity,” said Nichols.


3. Fundraiser makes dancing cool again

Turlockers are already known for their generosity when it comes to supporting local charities, but when the Salvation Army decided to spice things up with a "Dancing with the Stars" themed event, it struck a chord with the community at large.

Performers for the inaugural Dancing with the Turlock Stars did the cha-cha, the hustle, the flamenco, and in general thrilled the capacity crowd at the September event held at the Assyrian American Civic Club, as they raised thousands of dollars for the Salvation Army.

The benefit dinner show was modeled after the highly popular television show. It partnered 14 Turlock notables, including the two mayoral candidates, with partners with professional dancing experience. The pairs practiced for weeks honing their routines, as well as drumming up support and donations.

“It was a marvelous event,” said Salvation Army Major Debi Shrum. “I was shocked how many people showed up.”

Modesto Police Capt. Joel Broumas and Amy Shamgochian brought the crowd to their feet with their disco routine to “No Parking on the Dancing Floor” and earned a perfect trio of 10s from the judges. The pair easily nabbed the Judges Trophy for best dance routine and performance. The partnership of Jerry Powell and Nicole Gordon-Couto had the honor of hoisting the Mirror Ball Championship trophy at the end of the night. The award was given to the couple who generated the most donations to the Salvation Army through votes cast.


In addition to the above list of top talked about stories around town, were quite a few happenings that had tongues wagging, including:

·         Turlock rolled out the red carpet in October for the world premiere of the "Christian Mingle" movie, which saw stars like Corbin Bernsen and Lacey Chabert return to town;

·         A German Shepherd was rescued by the Turlock Fire Department in February from a narrow shaft at the Turlock Water Quality Plant;

·         Turlock residents and Good Samaritans Colby Browning and Kaze Villarial rescued 91-year-old Robert Brown from his burning home in May, when they were driving down the street and saw smoke billowing up in the air;

·         With just one vote making the difference, the Turlock Planning Commission made a decision in March to approve an amendment to the City’s zoning ordinance that places a ban on mobile food facilities within the downtown district;

·         Elias Ruiz, a teacher at Dutcher Middle School, discovered a man face down in the water in the area of Fox Grove in the early morning hours of Dec. 14 and pulled him to safety from his Feather-Raft, a lightweight structure designed to float steadily on water that just won a $2,500 prize in the Stanislaus County Innovation Challenge; and

·         Fields of Ice, Turlock's first ice skating rink located at R.A.M. Farms, opened for the 2014-15 season with double the ice, 120 feet by 80 feet.