It was just about a year ago when Lora Warnick and Beverley Canepari hatched the idea for Unlocking Litchfield (unlockinglitchfield.com). Since then they’ve had no shortage of fun as they’ve highlighted some of the county’s most recognizable faces and places, its country charm, notable businesses, hidden treasures and obscure pastimes.
The journey has allowed them to model a clothing line from “What Not to Wear’s” Clinton Kelly at Morrison Gallery in Kent, enter hair heaven at noted stylist Scott Bond’s home, keep company with some of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces at a Housatonic Valley Association auction, delve into all things Arethusa and enjoy fine gin and bourbon at Litchfield Distillery.
Each assignment on the website is done with the help of videographer and Ridgefield High senior Tim Lenz. Like many modern outlets, the stories are a combination of the written word, video and photography. Warnick and Canepari become part of the story. They are excited to try the latest fashions, undergo treatment from make-up and hair artists and pose with their subjects. Nearly every post includes a video and photos from Lenz, Warnick’s photography and Canepari’s writing.
The ladies aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and have sojourned to Modern Paintball in Falls Village, the Norfolk Curling Club and waded the county’s most famous fly fishing destination with Housatonic River Outfitters.
“We’ll try anything within reason,” said Warnick, the site’s photographer. “That’s the fulfilling part to us. We’re introducing people to businesses in the county. I feel like we’re helping business and residents . . . and we get to have fun.”
“Which is the main goal in life,” Canepari added.
And that is no understatement. Everything with Warnick and Canepari exudes fun. Their laughter is near constant and you won’t likely see them at a planning and zoning meeting any time soon.
A recent interview they conducted with husband-and-wife WFSB journalists Dennis House and Kara Sundlun, timed for Valentine’s Day, included questions about how the couple manages to balance their work life, children and also keep a healthy relationship.
While House and Sundlun live in Hartford, the segment was filmed at 19 Bank St. in New Milford, a new wedding and special events venue, again looking to showcase a county business.
More recently the pair have added a getaways section to the site, featuring places such in Maine and New York City.
They’ve faced some questions for such a decision, but the two feel that the section continues the fun aspect of the site, gives people a great idea for day trips and even helps local businesses. Out-of-state visitors who read those stories sometimes read posts featuring Litchfield County locales. Additionally, places with large social media followings are using social media to connect people with the site, they said.
“Maybe those people will be like ‘why don’t we go to Connecticut for the weekend?’” Warnick said. “We kind of feel like we’re helping tourism for Connecticut.”
The idea for Unlocking Litchfield came pretty quickly. The two had been acquaintances and Canepari offered to accompany Warnick to a fashion show in New York City. The plan was hatched during the train ride to the show.
“We just decided that Litchfield County needed a blog of its own,” Canepari said.
“We just started talking about it and two months later our first blog post was up,” Warnick added.
Canepari said Warnick had a marketing team “the next day” and area professionals helped customize a Wordpress site, come up with logos and more. That first post – on tax day last year – featured The White Horse Country Pub in the Marbledale section of Washington, Conn.
“The main thing that people are saying is just that Litchfield County needed something like this. People are really excited about it,” Canepari said.
White Horse owner John Harris is certainly a fan. While he, of course, appreciates the coverage of his own business, he also said the blog is great for the entire county.
“Unlocking Litchfield is a terrific publication with much quality and class,” Harris said. “The stories are diverse and interesting, the photographs superb.”
But it’s not always easy. The two have full-time jobs. In addition to the blog and her own photography business, Warnick is a project coordinator at Theatre Projects. Canepari is an administrative director at Buck's Rock Camp Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp in New Milford and a fitness instructor. In fact, the two met when Warnick took one of her classes.
Running the site, coordinating interviews, writing, editing photos and other aspects are time consuming, they said.
“On my lunch hour, I do only blog work,” Warnick said. “It’s a lot, but it doesn’t feel like work.”
“This is a creative outlet for us,” Canepari said.
The two are quite happy with their jobs and aren’t looking to become full-time journalists, but are also open to whatever comes next.
Recently the site has begun to sell ads, and some features like the holiday guides contain paid content. But the two retain creative control and don’t show stories to sources before publication, they said. Additionally, they get more requests for coverage than they can keep up with.
The two wanted to establish the site before it could begin to bring some income, but they aren’t looking to quit their day jobs. However, they aren’t setting any limits either.
“We’re open to what the universe offers,” Canepari said.
The two also feel they can offer a fresh perspective. Both live in New Milford and Canepari moved to the county in 1994, Warnick in 2011. Sometimes a fresh look can unveil new places and both love living in the area, they said. Since Unlocking Litchfield, both say they are even more enthralled.
“Now that we’ve been doing it, I love Litchfield County even more,” Warnick said.
In addition to the website at unlockinglitchfield.com, you can follow @unlockingCT on Twitter and @unlockinglitchfield on Instagram.