Socializing

Jill Woltkamp, dressed like Brian May from Queen, attends a recent “social distancing party.”

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, events are on hold, parties scuttled and get-togethers verboten, while “Zoom” has become a noun, verb, adjective and perhaps expletive. But some Laramie residents are finding ways to check in with neighbors and connect with friends in person while still adhering to social distancing standards.

Audrey Kleinsasser lives on North 17th Street along with a group of neighbors that maintains regular contact. For the last decade, the group has organized an annual summer block party, complete with a street shutdown and activities for kids.

“Ours is a very welcoming and caring two-block stretch,” she said.

When social events came to a screeching halt several weeks ago, she found herself outside working in the yard at the same time as several neighbors, and they decided to do a weekly neighborhood check-in.

“At 6 p.m. Tuesdays, we come out of our houses and come to the end of the driveway and we wave hello to everybody,” she said.

A few weeks in, a couple neighbors broke out their guitars, and everyone gathered around — as much as it’s possible to gather around while still maintaining one’s social distance — and enjoyed an impromptu concert.

Kleinsasser said neighbors of all ages are participating in the weekly event, which they hope to continue, perhaps with the addition of virtual games or other activities.

“It’s one way we’re going to look out for each other,” she said.

For her, the gatherings are a break from global news and a boost to her mood.

“We love living in Laramie and appreciate this community and our neighbors,” she said.

Elsewhere in Laramie, Jill Woltkamp found herself canceling trips and get-togethers that she’d been looking forward to as the world ground to a halt.

“The hardest thing for me has been not having things on the calendar,” she said.

Several weeks ago, she and her husband and two children rode their bikes to a friend’s house to celebrate a birthday with dancing on the front lawn. Then they decided to bring the party to their house, inviting others over for a demarcated gathering, with designated spaces where guests could spread out while listening to music on an old-school boom box.

“We drew circles in the driveway, but we can still get together and see each other and talk and have a good time,” Woltkamp said.

Participants were invited to dress up, and even passers-by were able to get in on the fun. During a time when normal routines have been upended, an occasional item on the calendar offers a welcome break.

“It’s a fun thing to do,” she said.

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