Prairie Lights: A moment for thanks, then back to work


John Warner

The crowd at the Last Best News party had thinned somewhat by the time this photo was taken, but enthusiasm levels were still high.

At the risk of alienating readers who think all reporters should be cynical toughs too jaded and jaundiced to indulge in social niceties, I’m afraid some thank-yous are in order.

We threw our Last Best News party and fundraiser on Friday and I’m writing this on Saturday, exhausted and still a little stunned by how well everything went and by how damned much fun, reportedly, everyone had.


Ed Kemmick

Even the weather was with us, and in Montana there are few things more fickle than the weather. Temperatures were in the mid-60s, the sun was shining and the high winds of late took the day off. It was a perfect day for throwing open the big overhead door on the Garage Pub at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.

Good thing the door was open—we needed the room. Just shy of 400 people paid the $5 cover to get in. I did hear reports that some people asked what the heck kind of party they’d stumbled into, because Fridays at the Garage are generally low key, with no live music.

I’m guessing that most people were there, though, because they knew exactly what we were doing. Since David Crisp pulled the plug on The Billings Outpost and joined Last Best News at the end of January, we have been seeking support from our readers, knowing we would need some help, at least, until our newly expanded online newspaper could reach the point of being self-sustaining.

We solemnly hope this final round of thanks will be the last thing we say about fundraising and finances for a good long while—though we also agreed that the party was so much fun that we ought to make it an annual event. We’ll see about that.

In the meantime, our thanks, first of all, to those who had boots on the ground at the party itself. Marcy and Adam Baumgartner poured rivers of beer and kept on eye on general operations all evening, and Carolyn Tolton performed similar feats of endurance in the Spirits Room, pouring vodka and gin.

Great heaps of delectable foods were prepared by Lisa and Pam Kemmick and Pat Crisp, supplemented by the ambrosiac talents of Rita Clippinger, proprietor of the Broadway Deli and Café.

The evening passed so quickly that it should have been impossible to hear so much good music in so many styles, but we’ve come to expect miracles from this stable of virtuosi: Bob Brown, Pat Rogers, brother John Kemmick, Ron Schuster, Ryan Riley, Parker Brown and Alex Nauman.

Steve Sundeen ran the sound, Tom Tollefson worked the door and family members and friends performed all manner of chores—basically whatever needed to be done, in their estimation. They included the two Mrs. Kemmicks again, daughters Pari and Hayley Kemmick, the rest of the Tolton clan, Danielle McCracken, Whitney Gum, Pat Crisp and no doubt others whom I hate myself for forgetting.

Did I mention that David Crisp recited German poetry, Goethe no less? It was, I venture to say, a first for the Garage. The response was so enthusiastic that perhaps he will contribute an occasional story in German to Last Best News.

In preparation for the event, we had the support of so many good people that mere thanks seems insufficient. Maybe David could swing by and recite German poetry for them?

They include the owners of all seven Billings breweries—Montana Brewing Co., Canyon Creek, Angry Hank’s, Carter’s, Uberbrew, Yellowstone Valley and the new Thirsty Street—as if they haven’t done enough to increase the happiness quotient of our fair city already. They all contributed goodies for two large “brewery baskets” that we featured in our silent auction.

Special thanks to George Moncure, owner of the brewery that hosted the party. The whole thing was George’s idea to begin with, and one ignores George’s enthusiasm at one’s peril.

For the raffle, our benefactors included the owners of three great restaurants—Walkers Grill, Lilac and The Rex—as well as the Art House Cinema & Pub, Montana Spirit Distillery, Rock Creek Coffee Roasters, Alberta Bair Theater, N2 Cryotherapy and Tangled Up in Tie-Dye.

John Warner, the superb photographer who occasionally injects his magic into Last Best News, contributed six framed photos for the silent auction. I hope the winning bidders know how fortunate they were.

And many thanks to Scott Turner, the owner of Billings Times Printing. His excellent work—posters, business cards, rate sheets, envelopes, stationery and raffle tickets—and his even better advice and encouragement, were invaluable.

Behind the scenes, our webmaster and all-around font of wisdom Matthew Struck performed endless wonders, some of which we understood, and ad designer Melanie Fabrizius did lightning-fast work in response to our every request, always flawlessly.

How do we begin to say thanks to all the friends, readers, donors and advertisers who packed the Garage on Friday and showered us with encouragement, kind words and good cheer?

You make us want to get to work and justify all your support. Fundraising exceeded our expectations, as they say, and the party was ridiculously fun, but we both prefer editing and writing and putting out a newspaper, online or off, to most anything else.

So let us just say one more time, before we get back to work, thanks.

Leave a Reply