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Rodstock returns to Kelly Walsh a year after being held virtually because of COVID-19
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Rodstock returns to Kelly Walsh a year after being held virtually because of COVID-19

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Alyssa Lattimer sings Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" to a cheering crowd gathered at Kelly Walsh during the Rodstock music festival on Thursday in Casper. The fundraiser had to be held virtually last year because of the pandemic.

If faculty and students weren’t already familiar with junior Taiya Vigil’s singing talent, they were sure made aware of it Thursday at the Kelly Walsh High School gymnasium, where 75-100 performers put it all out there for Rodstock, an annual fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Wyoming.

Vigil feels a strong vocal connection with Whitney Houston, so she performed “I Will Always Love You.” But doing it well is not an easy feat.

Alec Baldwin once recalled an experience with Houston from 1991 to Vanity Fair. “You truly are the most talented singer out there today,” Baldwin said in a moment of being star-struck. Houston responded with, “I know, baby,” and walked away.

“I’m not going to lie,” Vigil laughed. “It’s kind of a flex.”


Charlize Fritsinger accompanies herself on piano as she sings "Heather" by Conan Gray at Kelly Walsh for the annual Rodstock music festival Thursday in Casper.

However, at Rodstock, it doesn’t matter if you can sing or have stage presence. Anyone who gets on stage is accepted and celebrated, according to social studies teacher Marc Fleming.

“We have kids here who are band members; we have kids here who are choir members,” Fleming said. “But we have kids here who haven’t done anything musically with the school ever before, and they get to perform in front of all of their peers and be genuinely accepted.”


Rachel Merchant plays the violin as she performs her original song "Irish Wonders" on Thursday at Rodstock, the annual music festival hosted by Kelly Walsh in Casper.

Not every student goes to a choir or band concert or a theater event, Fleming pointed out. So, not everyone may not know how “insanely talented” the school is, he said.

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For director and senior Marissa Collier, her favorite part of Rodstock is watching the transformation of a performer who might have stage fright backstage before a performance but will return from the stage elated.

She recalled watching Alyssa Lattimer perform “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey from backstage and seeing the crowd’s reaction.

“They got so into it,” Collier said. “It was beautiful. It was probably the best part of my day.”


Students at Kelly Walsh sitting the the auditorium for Rodstock hold up their phones with the flashlight on as Alyssa Lattimer sings Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" on Thursday in Casper.

Last year, Rodstock was a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students submitted videos; teachers edited the videos — with a bit of production thrown in — and they would drop every 30 minutes on social media. Still, with fundraising being one of the top goals, it was hard to raise money due to the shutdown.

But this year, Principal Mike Britt and staff emphasized bringing Rodstock back for the students, faculty and community. They focused on the details and followed public health guidelines to make Rodstock possible.


Kelly Walsh teachers perform "Layla" at the Rodstock music festival Thursday in Casper.


Kailey McLean performs her original song "Average Girls" at Kelly Walsh in Capser for Rodstock on Thursday.

“We had to fit within the 500 (person) guideline,” Britt said. “We had to make sure students wore their masks; we had to worry about social distancing.”

And while the event was still limited, nearly $4,000 was raised for the Make-A-Wish foundation by students who donated whatever change they had.

“A lot of the kids that receive the wishes from Make-A-Wish are Trojans or former Trojans,” Britt said. “That’s an important facet for us, which is why we partner with Make-A-Wish for a lot of our fundraisers.”


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Teacher Marc Fleming didn't want to give Rodstock up, so he began to message students on social media to see if they would play their music in videos that could be posted periodically throughout this week. The goal is to show the community — and the students — that Kelly Walsh is more than a building.

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