As the clock ticks down toward the end of 2015, the News is taking a look back at the stories, photos and social media posts that drew the most attention over the course of the year.
1. Patrick Kane is accused of rape, but charges are never laid
It all started in August: A woman who met NHL superstar Patrick Kane at a bar and went to his Hamburg waterfront home accused Kane of raping her.
An investigation began, but after forensic tests failed to confirm the rape allegations, a hoax over an evidence bag threw the case into turmoil, and the accuser decided she no longer wanted to cooperate in the investigation, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III chose not to prosecute the case.
"This so-called ‘case’ is rife with reasonable doubt,” Sedita said at the time.
2. A Hollywood wedding with a Buffalo spin
When actress and singer Vanessa Williams married Depew resident Jim Skrip, they didn't get married in New York. Or Los Angeles. Or Miami. Or Chicago. They got married in Buffalo.
Williams and Skrip celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Church. Skrip’s late parents were married in that church, which is also home to the angel statues formerly housed in St. Mary’s Redemptorist, the Buffalo church where Williams’ parents were wed long before it was destroyed by fire in 1986.
“We felt it was meant to be for us to have our wedding here,” Williams said.
Williams was pleased her guests had a chance to experience Buffalo. “They’ve noticed how it’s on the rise again, that their visions of what it used to be and what it is now are definitely different and improved,” she said. “I think that’s a big positive point for the city. People do recognize that it is on the uptick. There is a lot of young energy coming in. It’s hip.”
3. 'Totes McGoats' revealed to have drug-dealing past
Niagara Falls' new recycling mascot leaped to fame when he debuted in October -- or should that be infamy?
Media across the nation picked up on the Cataract City's newest PR campaign, a creepy goat head on a man’s body. The word "terrifying" was featured prominently many media accounts.
Then it came to light that the city worker picked to serve as Totes McGoats had a background as a heroin dealer. "I was just trying to make a difference," James L. Dolson, the man behind the mask, told The News of his role as Totes.
This story has a happy ending: Dolson, who was participating in a court-supervised drug rehabilitation program, was a ruled a success in the program this month.
“Congratulations, Mr. Dolson," Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III told Dolson. "Not everyone makes it this far."
4. Beloved in Buffalo, Fred embraced in Seattle
The Bills' decision to cut four-time team captain Fred Jackson stunned many at One Bills Drive and across the fanbase -- not to mention Jackson and his family.
Within an hour of being cut, Jackson had offers from two teams, and shortly after signed a one-year, $900,000 deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t get to do what I wanted to in Buffalo, but I’m excited about Seattle,” Jackson said in September. “It’s another opportunity to win some football games and chase a Super Bowl."
5. Lorigo calls for Poloncarz to reverse stance on accepting Syrian refugees
It started with County Executive Mark Poloncarz offering to accept up to 300 Syrian refugees in Erie County. Legislator Joseph C. Lorigo on Twitter and Facebook called for Poloncarz to reverse that stance.
“The risk to our community is far too great,” the West Seneca Conservative tweeted. “We must do everything we can to protect the citizens of Erie County.”
Poloncarz, in response, said county government plays no role in the deciding where refugees are settled in the United States and that he was disappointed both by Lorigo’s “comments and his ignorance of the process of resettling refugees in our country.”
It started in January with the publication of the first 50 things that every Western New Yorker should do: from sampling wings at the Anchor Bar to getting stuck in traffic by the Big Blue Water Tower. It continued the next month with 50 more must-do items like visiting Crystal Beach, Ont., shopping in the Elmwood Village and picking your own fruit. Here's a gallery that includes all 100 items.
Buffalo loves the World's Largest Disco -- more than 7,000 tickets were sold for this year's event, which celebrates the music of the '70s with dancing, a light show and celebrity guests. Fans of the World's Largest Disco also loved Gusto's on-the-scene photos from the bash.
Buffalo is home to a fine collection of late 19th century and early 20th century architecture. Sadly, some of the most highly regarded buildings from that period were lost to the wrecking ball or to fire damage. News Reporter Stephen T. Watson compiled a list of some of the most prominent commercial and residential buildings from that period that live on today only in yellowed newspaper clippings, black-and-white photos and websites devoted to the region's rich architectural history.
Runners in the 2015 Buffalo Marathon got a bright and beautiful day for their race, as well as nearly 200 photos taken by News Photographer Harry Scull Jr.
Once again, Gusto's on-the-scene shots from one of Buffalo's biggest Halloween parties drew plenty of attention.
Most-viewed stories on social media
But that's not all that made 2015 such a memorable year. You told us what you liked through Facebook likes and re-tweets. Here are five stories that you, the reader, loved and shared:
- An open letter to Scott Weiland: 'So this is where it ends'
- In tiny Celoron, an ugly Lucille Ball sculpture spurs huge debate
- Storm rages through woodwind section of Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
- Torell Troup: the one drafted a pick ahead of Rob Gronkowski
- Fifteen years later, the 'Miracle' lingers on for Bills