A Million Miles and a Ways to Go… (Post 8)

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  Looking back to the beginning of a semester has always been quite intriguing to me because I am baffled by how much can happen in such a short period of time. Although it seems like we began this journey only a few days ago, I am astounded by the amount of work that I have actually completed for this course. In writing my opening blog post, I was quite optimistic yet anxious about the upcoming tasks because I do not consider myself to be a technological genius. Having an understanding and obviously passionate instructor alongside fellow students who actually care about the course content made it quite easy to get over my anxiety and produce some of the most interesting work I have ever produced.

            When this semester began, I was primarily focused on using this class as a way to market myself while simultaneously gaining experience combining literary journalism with visual storytelling. I was mostly excited to try new things, particularly in regard to operating a blog, but I never expected to learn so much.

            Not only do I feel that I gained the experience I was looking for in terms of marketing oneself and diversifying my journalism skills, but I also feel that I gained a lot of useful skills that will make me marketable to wide range of professional positions. In a world that is only becoming more digitized, it is important that prospective professionals have a toolbox of e-skills such as managing a post, being able to edit and publish videos/sound, and understanding how the use of these e-skills can help to reach an audience that may not have been as easily reached using more traditional means of production such as television and newspaper.

            Although gaining endorsable skills is essential to anyone seeking a job in a competitive job market, this class also helped me to refine some soft skills that I will always remember. Despite my hypothesis that some of the video/audio editing skills I gained will be lost or eventually obsolete, the soft skills I gained or sharpened while working on these projects will carry with me throughout the rest of my professional life. One of the biggest lessons I learned that will be useful to me in the future relates to taking photos and videos. As I stated in an earlier post, I like to consider myself to be a relatively self-aware human, which often leads to me worrying about being invasive or obnoxious about taking photos or videos of people. Perhaps one of the most useful lessons I took away from this class is that your comfort level as a photographer or videographer will have a direct effect on your subjects. For example, if you just dive right in and take photos and videos, no one really seems to care. On the other hand, however, if you are having a hard time getting comfortable, you will inadvertently draw attention to yourself and make the job that much more difficult.

            Setting aside the fact that this has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had as a college student, there were indeed some projects that I enjoyed more than others. Our most recent project involved putting together a video of some sort. I really enjoyed the amount of freedom we were allowed in our approach to this project, and getting to go to Laramie’s sesquicentennial birthday celebration was an absolute blast. I really enjoyed walking around the event and trying to look at things with a slightly different perspective. It is interesting to me that I can often overlook some very interesting and eye-catching details until I remind myself that there is probably more than just one way to look at something.

            On the other side of the same coin, the project that I enjoyed the least was the social media critique. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a thousand times by now in this blog, I only subscribe to one platform of social media which I rarely update, meaning that the amount of work I had to put into this post went quite a bit beyond what I had initially imagined. To really get a good look at the different social media profiles of two different organizations, I had to create fake social media profiles (which meant that I also had to create a few fake email accounts). Although this allowed me to have fun coming up with interesting and fun aliases for myself, it was quite time consuming and didn’t feel like the effort was worth the reward.

            If I could step into a time machine and give myself a piece of advice for this course, it would have been very simple: get ahead! What I mean by this is that I often found myself “under the gun” when working on assignments, scrambling to make sure that my write up was finished even though the major part of my work had been done for days. I feel that if I had put more effort into my blog post write-ups, I would have performed significantly better than I did, even though my experience was still very much a positive one.

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Cheers!

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Laramie’s 150th Birthday (Post 7)

In setting out to put together a video that was story-worthy, interesting, and manageable, my friend Nick and I had no clue where to start. We began by looking at a handful of schedules of upcoming events with a particular emphasis on happenings around the college campus of the University of Wyoming, but nothing really struck us as outstanding. We were able to narrow our list down to a small handful of events that we thought could make for some interesting film-making, but we ended up going back to the drawing board once we learned that the town of Laramie would be celebrating its 150th birthday on Friday, May 4, 2018.

            Upon researching the history surrounding the event, we discovered that the official founding of Laramie occurred on the same day in 1868 when the railroad finally reached what Michael Gray of the Albany County Tourism Board called “tent city”. What followed was a raucous and wild series of events that led to the expansion and refinement of Laramie, Wyoming, culminating in a six-hour celebration of “Laramie’s Birthday” last Friday at the Laramie Territorial Prison.

            Going to the event was like stepping into a time-machine; not only were there architectural sights to enjoy that hearkened back to simpler times, but a host of activities and colorful characters dotted the event as well. It was a truly great experience to wander around and shoot a ton of b-roll footage. Since we had planned a bit of unplanned footage in the early stages of our project, we were allowed quite a bit of freedom when it came to finding interesting and eye-catching shots. Although we had an idea of what we wanted to get, we hadn’t planned for the event to contain such rich characters and gorgeous scenery, which contributed heavily to some of our most visually appealing shots.

            Perhaps what was most difficult about this process for me was the editing phase. Although I have worked with videos and have done editing in the past, it is always something that stresses me out, primarily because I do not feel confident in my editing skills. Luckily, Nick is quite experienced in using iMovie, so this process was made much simpler thanks in large part to his expertise. Even though I was mostly consulting while Nick did the actual editing, I was able to pick up a few tricks from simply watching him and asking questions when I didn’t understand how he had performed a particular function.

            Often times, big projects such as this video project can be quite stressful and tend to leave me in a state of indecision, trying to decide where to start. Luckily with this project, simply going to the event was enough to shake the stress and indecision I often face when beginning a new project that I am not totally comfortable with. What was most surprising to me about this experience was how easy it was to film others; for the most part, people did not seem to care that they were being filmed. We were able to take a lot of footage of a variety of people and events without being asked a single question about what we were doing! Although I would attribute this to the fact that we were using our phones as cameras and the general public is not surprised when they see someone filming or taking pictures of something, it is a wonderfully useful piece of information to remember for the future. Knowing that people will most likely be indifferent to my filming events and people will help me to be more confident and low-key about my future filming endeavors.

            If I could have done one thing differently, it would have been to speak with more participants at the event. Although we were able to get contributions from two wonderful speakers (Mike Gray and “Sarah Montgomery”), it could have been nice to get a variety of perspectives from people who were simply participating in the event without having such a vested interest in the sesquicentennial celebration. Speaking with these types of people would have given us a lot of information about how others felt about the celebration and its many activities, but I think our focus ended up being more about Laramie’s birthday than the event itself.

            As I look to the future, I am quite relieved that I was able to have this experience. I imagine that I will have to work with creating some kind of video in the future as part of my career and the lessons that I learned while working on this project will serve me well. First, I now feel much more confident about filming people while they go about their business. Since I consider myself to be a relatively self-aware person, I was worried that randomly filming people might be considered intrusive or bothersome, but I now know that most people don’t mind or don’t even notice at all. This will be massively useful for me in the future in that I will have little anxiety about taking all the footage I want. Second, I now know that b-roll is about as important as it is fun to shoot! In our video, we were able to use lots of footage of seemingly random things that we thought were visually appealing and interesting, which ended up being perfect for going along with our interviews.

Finally, I learned that you never know what you might find until you go looking. When Nick and I first began this project, we were having a difficult time contacting those who were orchestrating the event (most likely because they were busy setting up the event!), but we had no problem finding people to speak with once we actually went to the event and dove in. It was a massively fun project and I look forward to doing something similar in the future!

Social Media Critique (Post 6)

Since its inception in 1997, Social Media has exploded into a market all its own. As more and more people gained access to the internet and created profiles on various social media platforms such as Facebook and MySpace, myriad companies the world over began to view this new medium as a cheap and quick way to reach a wide audience.
Throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century, a seemingly endless wave of new social media applications and platforms became available to the public and professional organizations. Applications and sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat revolutionized the way that people communicated with each other, which in turn paved the way toward revolutionizing the manner in which organizations communicate about themselves to both current and potential customers.

To get a better idea about how contemporary organizations use social media for public relations and marketing purposes, it is useful to compare the social media presence of two similar organizations. For the purposes of this post, the social media presence of National Geographic and Scientific American will be compared.

Although it is useful to closely examine the specific messages and content released by organizations on social media, including the extent to which these organizations participate in two-way communication with other social media users, it is essential that any comparison of two organizations social media usage begin by analyzing which social media platforms these organizations use.

 

NatGeo
Not only does National Geographic maintain social media presence on all of the mainstream social media platforms, the management of these pages makes their social media profiles easily accessible and highly interactive. Perhaps what National Geographic does best is provide a multitude of videos and images. Aside from having a handful of offshoot pages dedicated to more niche categories such as National Geographic Magazine and a Snapchat page specifically devoted to non-American animals, National Geographic provides constant updates to their pages on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Despite having a heavy presence on all of these pages, they have definitely dedicated a bit more creativity and effort to certain platforms, essentially prioritizing YouTube and Snapchat over older platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Although National Geographic provides heaps of content that would satisfy even the most ravenous media consumer, their efforts are clearly spent in sending content out without much input from users. That is not to say that they are completely asymmetrical in their approach to social media use, but it is clear that they are more focused on getting news stories, images, and videos out into the digital space than they are focused on having an actual conversation with users, which seems a bit counter-intuitive in terms of the original design and intention of social media platforms.

 

The heaps of media content available is enough to keep consumers satisfied, yet the imbalance between National Geographic’s presence across differing social media platforms naturally leads to more exclusive experiences. In consideration of the fact that it is difficult to see how they promote themselves explicitly, one could argue that National Geographic simply intends to market itself through exemplary work in the form of accessible media content. Overall, National Geographic’s social media presence is impressive with room for improvement in communicating more often with users, either directly or through crowd-sourcing.

 

SciAmerican
Despite seeming quite a bit less popular than National Geographic at a first glance, Scientific American manages its social media presence to almost the same intensity of National Geographic. What is interesting is that Scientific American has more followers on Twitter than National Geographic even though this is not the case for the other social media platforms the two organizations have in common. First, Scientific American has a presence on all of the same platforms save for Snapchat, which could exclude them from reaching some younger audience members. Scientific American seems to update their content regularly and favors short posts, videos, and images over articles of text. Scientific American does a nice job of keeping their message short and to the point, a fact that is punctuated by the choppy, easy-to-understand mission statement present on their Twitter page.

Scientific American seems to be a heavy competitor with National Geographic in terms of their social media management for two primary reasons: their follower base closely rivals that of National Geographic and their articles and posts are heavily mediated, making it easy and accessible both for existing and potential users and followers. This organization seems to have a great handle on appealing to a wide audience without burying less-educated users in wordy articles and highly scientific jargon.
One of the easiest ways that Scientific American could improve their social media presence would be to add a Snapchat page. Although it is arguable that the younger audiences who are the primary participants in Snapchat may not be interested to follow an organization such as Scientific American, it could just as easily be argued that other similar sites manage Snapchat pages with great success. Snapchat would be a wonderful outlet for this organization because so many of their messages are already prepped for the structure of Snapchat’s “stories”. Overall, Scientific American boasts a social media presence with loads of content and short, quick messages, but it does not seem to be reaching its full potential in terms of audience expansion and communication.

 

 

This experience
Going into this assignment, I was quite worried that it would be relatively difficult because I rarely operate the three social media platforms I subscribe to (LinkedIn, Snapchat and Twitter). Although I do have accounts on these platforms, I rarely update or check them and I had not even considered looking for organizations such as National Geographic and Scientific American. I really enjoyed working with the class to come up with tips for professional social media management and it seems that both of the organizations analyzed here have followed most of them to the “T”. The main issue that I noticed with these organizations social media presence is that neither of them seems to facilitate two-way communication in favor of releasing tons of content. Although I understand that both of these organizations tend to generate quite a bit of content, using social media for professional purposes is first and foremost about facilitating discussion so that users feel as if they have a greater sense of ownership and identity with an organization.

Snowy Range 5 Best Unmarked Trails (Post 5)

Introduction:

img_0887.pngSnowy Range Ski Area has become something of a second home for many skiers and snowboarders in the Laramie area, including my friends and me. Located just outside the town of Centennial, Wyoming, this small resort offers quite a bit of diversity in terms of terrain and trail styles, yet any rider who has spent a significant amount of time at Snowy will tell you that it is a highly accessible mountain with little to keep expert riders challenged.

“The steepest, most difficult thing at Snowy is nothing compared to Jackson Hole, or Targhee, or Vale, or any of those bigger mountains,” said Symon Teasdale, a long-time season pass holder at Snowy Range.

Often times, spending so much time at the same resort can lead to complacency and boredom, so my friends and me have always tried to find new and exciting ways to experience the mountain that will maintain interest while providing accessible challenges.

“If you’re just going to ride trails all day, it gets a little monotonous. The backside is a little steeper, a little more challenging. If you get off into the trees a little more and look for stuff that’s not exactly marked, there’s plenty to keep you entertained,” said Teasdale.

And Symon is not alone in this belief. Many riders of Snowy Range consider the backside Sundance lift to be a bit of a hidden gem, not so much because few people know about it, but instead because it can be quite challenging to traverse from the front side over to the Sundance lift, making it somewhat exclusive for more advanced riders.

Although Snowy Range Ski Area isn’t widely known for being a very challenging or steep mountain, riders of all stripes can find something to enjoy here. Detailing runs that are not marked can be quite difficult for readers who are not intimately familiar with the landscape and terrain-types detailed in this post, so I have included a map that shows the paths of these unmarked trails to the best of my ability to draw them. This map details our five favorite unmarked runs for advanced and expert riders.
*NOTE* Many of the runs detailed in the following list contain multiple options and most can be exited before completing the recommended trail. All of the trails in the following list are for riders with advanced and expert abilities ONLY. Enjoy!

Snowy Range Super Snake

IMG_0995.JPGThis is one of our favorite runs on the entire mountain. Dipping skier’s right into the trees just below the entrance to the Arapahoe run leads riders to a well-worn snake in the trees. A relatively steep incline makes this run quite versatile and allows riders to choose from multiple possible paths through the pressing trees. This tightly wound “canal” offers a handful of options, but the tight corners and dense trees make this a run suited for experts only.

Big Boss

IMG_1022.JPGNamed after one of our favorite fictional characters, this tree run presents prime challenges and many opportunities for play. Although the run takes riders through a relatively dense forest after taming a steep hill right behind the Ski Patrol shack, the tree spacing makes it highly accessible, though still not recommended for inexperienced riders. The trees open up as riders make their way to the bottom of the run and multiple felled trees provide opportunity for rail-riding.

Solidus

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This run begins on Snowy’s most difficult run, Crazy Horse. Riders enter the run from the top to experience some tightly-spaced moguls before cutting skier’s right into the trees. The tight spacing requires planning and a confident attitude. The run pops out onto Snowy’s Shoshoni trail before dipping skier’s left back into the trees. There are many opportunities for swapping back and forth between runs, creating a massive winding snake. This run is not recommended for riders with little experience riding in trees.

Peaches

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Coined “Peaches” for the many rolling mounds that populate this run, riders can expect to experience wide sight-lines and many opportunities for catching air. The large roller right in the middle of the run provides the best opportunity for big air, but riders have many options for accessible jumps. Jump early for light sail-over jumps or ollie right at the apex of the roll for big air.


The Couch

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So named for the infamous snow couch that gets built every year just off to the side of the trail, this run takes riders through some tightly spaced woods into a steeply-hilled area that is almost always covered in fresh powder. Riders who carry avalanche shovels will have no trouble building kickers, snow coolers, and generally making this a “hang out in the woods”.

Audio Profile, Steve Bialostok (Post 4)

Since I have done quite a few interviews leading up to this audio profile, recording someone while conducting an interview was in no way a new experience. My typical style leans toward holding a regular conversation with the subject of my interview while recording them so that I can rely on revisiting a recorded version of our conversation over a shorthand recollection of our thoughts. In my experience, being able to backtrack on an audio file to find exactly what my interview subject stated as opposed to calling or double checking with them to make sure that I am not misquoting them is much simpler. In terms of editing these files, I was concerned that editing a nine-minute file down to two minutes would be quite difficult, however I was able to eliminate a lot of the examples and asides my interviewee input into the conversation and focus on the fundamentals of indexicality. Unfortunately, I did not record a proper introduction for my interviewee and waited far too long to request re-recording a proper introduction. The experience was sort of “on the fly”; I just happened to be visiting Steve Bialostok for a chat when we launched into a discussion about indexicality. My interest in the subject was immediately piqued, and I asked if I could record a brief explanation of the subject for this project. He obliged and gifted me with some wonderful material that was somewhat painful to “chop up”. As I look to the future, I am certain that audio recording will be a central part of my life. Not only as a musician, but also as a journalist. I really enjoyed the process of working with an audio file and editing software to generate a more concise version of a very interesting interview. I could very well see myself using these tools in the music industry, but I also know that they will be invaluable in future interviews and audio profiles.

Adventures in Photography (Post 3)

*NOTE* All photos in this series are presented “as is” with zero cropping or editing.

Photo 1 – “Mountainous Heavens”

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Pieces of a plastic bag cling to a tree in the morning breeze.

Every morning around 6 a.m., I take my dog Raiden for a walk. Even though we only alternate between a small handful of two-mile routes, it seems that the lighting in the morning offers breathtaking views of the landscape surrounding my apartment complex, offering brand-new scenes ripe for appreciation. This photo would most likely fall into the “Feature” category. I have used contrast effects to overlap a shadowed image of a tree on top of a cloud-streaked sky. The unique vantage point and lighting effects create a sort of optical illusion that allow the viewer to see either a cloudy sky or a snowy mountain. What initially caught my eye about this photo is the “bird” nestled in the branches of the tree. This “bird” is actually a grocery bag, which functions as a sort of example of Wyoming’s strong wind and a reminder of the importance of the proper disposal of garbage. In contemplating the events surrounding the capture of this photo, I am reminded of the importance of perspective.

Photo 2 – “Stack Study”

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A student works diligently in the secluded stacks of Coe Library

Despite being a long-time student at the University of Wyoming, I rarely spend much time in Coe Library. Recently, however, I ended up spending quite a bit of time in the library trying to find a book. As it turns out, I had read the reference number for finding the book in the library’s stacks incorrectly, which resulted in me going up and down the stairs and requesting help multiple times to find the book I was after. My last trip (which was successful!) occurred about three hours later after a meeting with one of my instructors. When I was headed down the long row of stacks, I noticed that a student I had seen studying in the stacks earlier was still seated among the books, working diligently. I took this photo because this is something I cannot identify with. Although it may seem contradictory, it is often quite difficult for me to study in the library, and I really admired this student’s commitment to studying for an extensive period of time in what, for me, is an intellectually stifling environment. I intentionally focused the camera lens so that the student was blurry, giving a sort of ominous feel to the photo. The books and shelving do a nice job of framing the subject of the photo right in the center, causing the eye to wander on a blurry object in the photo. This photo would best fit into the “Portrait” category. Something that I learned from taking this photo is that you have to constantly be on the lookout for photo opportunities, especially in settings you don’t typically visit.

Photos 3 & 4 “Malak of the Snow” & “Winded Lines”

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A snowboarder enjoys the comfort of shade on top of soft snow
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Heavy gusts of wind whip snow into a frenzy

Most of my friends get season passes for Snowy Range Ski Area. I personally have only missed one season in the last six years, and I feel quite comfortable at “Snowy”. One of the issues that the mountain faces is that it is relatively small, which can lead to overcrowding, yet this issue is offset by a handful of little-known spots on the backside of the mountain and in the many mini-forests that dot the resort. Photo 3 was taken when a friend and I headed into a relatively secluded spot to escape the horde of visitors. We had just taken a break when my friend decided to make a half snow angel right as I began shooting the area around us. I tried to focus on the way the lighting can change when cast on top of snow and I think that the boundary line (marked with pink ribbons) is nicely parallel with the subject of the photo. Photo 4 was taken just one week later at the same resort, but there were barely any visitors due to high winds. Gusts of wind exceeding 50 mph rendered the resort all but closed; it was no longer safe to run most of the chairlifts and only a small handful of runs were available for riding. I took this photo at the bottom of the main lift. I tried to use the mountain and the other lines in the photo (such as the ski pole in the middle of the photo) to show how windy it really was. The photo is interesting in that the curve of the mountain sort of gives the impression that the camera was held at an angle while it was really held close to level with an even horizon. I really like how the lines draw the eye in a true example of the rule of thirds. Photos 3 and 4 could both fall into the “Feature” category, but photo 4 would fit best into the “Spot News” category because it captured the closing of the main lift at Snowy Range Ski Area. What I learned from taking these photos was that it is often easier than you think to find differing perspectives. When I had initially set out to take these photos, I was considering attending an actual event or social function, but this experience helped me to discover that there are always multiple perspectives, even in the same, familiar setting.

Local Community Unites to Support Hospice of Laramie

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Participants line up to try the “Pepino”, a jalapeño-infused beer while other attendees enjoy the vibe at the FeBREWary event Saturday

LARAMIE – Over two hundred people showed up to the Hospice of Laramie’s first “FeBREWary Fest” fundraising event last Saturday at the Laramie Plains Civic Center. Local restaurants and Laramie’s own Home Brew Club donated food and beverages for the event while local band Moral Panic provided music free of charge, reducing the cost of the fundraiser significantly.

The event was primarily focused on getting people together for a good time in order to raise awareness and funds for the Hospice of Laramie in Wyoming. While some of the attendees professed that they had little knowledge of the Hospice in Laramie before attending the event, many voiced their support of the organization, regardless of their involvement with the Hospice of Laramie in the past.

“I had no idea what the hospice was, but 25 dollars for all you can eat and drink is a good way to get the young crowd out. The young people who will really make a difference in the future,” said Erin from New York, a current student at the University of Wyoming.

Terri Longhurst, executive director for the Hospice of Laramie, commented on this notion, mentioning that the first step in spreading awareness is gaining public interest. Longhurst explained that the event sold 239 of its 264 tickets, making it a success in her mind.

“The event was such a hit, I think we will do it again next year,” said Longhurst.

Longhurst went on to explain that the event was very much aligned with the Hospice of Laramie’s mission.

“Although we care for the dying, we are in the business of living. I think you could really feel that at the event,” said Longhurst.

One of the biggest supporters of the event was the Laramie Home Brew club, which donated 19 kegs of home-made beers and ciders to the event. In an interview with Sam Foust, a long-time member and key figure in the Laramie Home Brew club, he mentioned a long-running relationship between the Hospice of Laramie and the Home Brew Club.

“Shannon [one of our oldest members] has a history with Terri Longhurst. They worked together on another event in the past, and somehow the idea just came up. It was a fun challenge, getting to make beer for this event. Most people don’t know that it isn’t legal to dispense home brews, whether it’s for money or not. Events like this are the exception since it’s a donation,” said Foust.

Foust voiced his opinion that the event would not have been such a success if so many different local organizations hadn’t come together both to reduce costs and cultivate a positive atmosphere. He believes that providing a cheap night out with food, beverages and live music drew a crowd that wouldn’t have attended the event had the amenities been different.

The Hospice of Laramie is a little known non-profit organization whose mission is to provide comfort and support to the dying and to the families of the dying. Their facilities, located in West Laramie, speak to this mission. The comfortable layout and friendly atmosphere are designed to provide the best personal, medical and spiritual support possible to those nearing the end of their journey. The organization also provides support to families of the dying, even after their loved one has moved on.

As a non-profit, the Hospice of Laramie relies heavily on funds generated out of their organization for support, which is why events like FeBREWary are so important. Although raising money for the Hospice of Laramie was the initial goal of the event, Longhurst explained that the event was a success in more than just a monetary manner.

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Local band Moral Panic gets ready to begin their set at Laramie Plains Civic Center for the FeBREWary fundraising event.

“Everyone was having a good time. We love having Moral Panic; I actually don’t know if we are their groupie or if they are ours. [laughs] They have played events for us before, and it seems like they are always ready to come provide music for us. The vibe of the event was so positive and it really helped raise awareness about who we are and what we do,” said Longhurst.

If you would like to know more about the Hospice at Laramie, the Laramie Home Brew Club, or how to get involved, follow any of the respective links or search the organizations on Facebook.

–BIS–