Jul 16

Festivals: Events Statewide Offer Local Flair

by Stephen Youmans

Local flavor is an integral part of the Montana experience, and there is no better way to taste that flavor than through the cornucopia of local festivals held across the state each summer.

Western Montana
Suffused in mountain majesty, western Montana is home to plenty of exciting festivals.

On Aug. 8 through 10, the 25th annual Huckleberry Days Arts Festival will be held in downtown Whitefish, and according to Sarah Stewart, business manager of the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, this year should be as busy as ever. 

The three-day festival centers around an art show featuring all kinds of artists and art forms, Stewart said, including jewelers, photographers, painters and clothing designers. 

“We have over 100 artists that come out,” Stewart said.

There will also be a huckleberry dessert bakeoff, she said, with both commercial and noncommercial categories. Winners will receive cash prizes.

The children, of course, will not be neglected. Huckleberry Days offers plenty to do for all ages.

“We always have a kid’s activity,” Stewart said. “This year we’re having a mobile climbing wall, so that should be fun.”

Located in Depot Park beside Whitefish’s historic train station, the Huckleberry Days Arts Festival is a must-attend for anyone trekking through the Flathead Valley this summer.

Missoula is one of Montana’s largest cities, is also home to one of the state’s premier music festivals.

The River City Roots Festival, Aug. 23 and 24, is entering its ninth year, and in that time has become a marquee celebration of Missoula.

According to Linda McCarthy, executive director of the Missoula Downtown Association, the River City Roots Festival is an end-of-the-summer, welcome-back-to-school event.

The festival features live roots music, a Sunday morning fun run, an art show and a plethora of local food vendors.

The festival is intended to showcase Missoula’s unique culture in a family-friendly, enjoyable atmosphere.

“Missoula is very diverse in terms of arts and culture,” McCarthy said. “We felt like it was time to create a signature event.”

And signature it has become; 15,000 people are expected to attend, she said.

The following weekend, Kalispell will host one of the most exciting events of the year when the Mountain Madness Air Show comes to Glacier Park International Airport.

Highlighted by performances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the air show will feature a number of aerial acrobatics and exhibitions, said Director Chris Parson.

There will be lots of performers, lots of flybys,” Parson said. “It’s going to be a great event.”

In addition to the airborne activities, he said there will also be numerous static displays featuring a wide variety of aircraft, including military airplanes from World War II.

There will be plenty of vendors and concession stands, Parson said, as well as a special kid’s zone.

The Mountain Madness Air Show will be held on Aug. 30 and 31, 2014, and the gate opens at 10 a.m. both days.

Central Montana
Montana’s population density might decrease east of the Rockies, but the number of local festivals sure doesn’t. 

If you find yourself in Bozeman on Aug. 1 through 3, you will be just in time for the 37th annual Sweet Pea Festival.

“Back in 1978, a group of locals decided there needed to be something to celebrate the arts in the community,” said Andria Huntsinger, executive director of the Sweet Pea Festival. “It’s grown a lot over the years.”

The Sweet Pea Festival is an arts show and more. The weekend kicks off on Friday night with a Shakespeare in the Parks performance of Romeo and Juliet.

The next morning gets underway with a parade, followed by day-long activities at Lindley Park, which include local theatre and dance troupe performances, workshops, a flower show and over 100 arts and crafts vendors.

There will also be a Saturday morning fun run, a juried art show and a beer and wine garden featuring local brews, Huntsinger said.

Local flavor will be on display in Havre, when Havre Festival Days gets underway on Sept. 19 through 21.

“It is kind of a celebration of the end of summer,” said Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Chamber of Commerce. “It provides a lot of activities for a wide breadth of ages.”

The festival steps up to the plate on Friday night with a 48-hour softball tournament, which runs non-stop for two full days, Vandeberg said. The weekend then continues with a parade, an arts and crafts show, a fun walk and run, and a demolition derby.

The Kiwanis will also be holding their annual pancake breakfast, she said, and the library will host a youth book sale.

The festival will be tied into the weekly farmer’s market, Vandeberg said, which will be the last market of the season.

If you’re looking for something a little earthier, then the Treasure State Fly Wheelers Heritage Festival in Great Falls is probably the place for you.

According to Joe Garrity, president of the Treasure State Fly Wheelers, the festival is a celebration of Montana’s agricultural heritage.

“We’re just a group of guys and gals who keeps old tractors and engines going,” Garrity said. “We wanted to put on kind of a big show.”

The festival is on Sept. 20 and 21, and will include tractor competitions, handcraft demonstrations like butter churning and ice cream making, a car show, equipment demonstrations and concessions.

There will also be car jousting, Garrity said, where jousters attempt to skewer rings with lances while leaning out the passenger-side window of a moving car. It promises to be a fun-filled weekend, he said.

“We hope it will be a big event,” Garrity said.

Eastern Montana
If you are looking for festivals in Big Sky Country, you would be remiss if you neglected the eastern reaches of the state.

The Richland County Fair and Rodeo barrels out of the chute Aug. 3 through 9 in Sidney, and is sure to be a highlight of the summer.

According to Marissa Berling, administrative assistant for the Sidney Chamber of Commerce, Richland County Fair week is packed with activities the whole family can enjoy.

There will be a nightly PRCA rodeo, she said, which will incorporate a Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night.

“At the rodeo, for every individual who wears pink, we donate a dollar to breast cancer,” Berling said. Pink clothing can be purchased at nearby concession stands, she said.

Along with agricultural displays and carnival rides, the fair will include a monster truck rally, motocross and laser tag, Berling said, as well as daily entertainment provided by the Yampa Valley Boys.

If town pride and Canadian bagpipe bands are more your style than Ferris wheels and bucking broncos, you should make your way to Glasgow on Sept. 12 and 13 for the Glasgow Homecoming Festival.

The Saskatoon Police Pipe Band will be descending on the town to help celebrate Glasgow High School’s homecoming, said Lisa Olk, executive director of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

The pipe band will play during the parade on Friday afternoon, Olk said, and again at halftime during the big game when the Scotties take on the Baker Spartans.

On Saturday morning the pipe band will tune up for a full day of performing, and then the weekend will culminate with an event not to be missed.

“We have our famous pub crawl,” Olk said. “Ten local bars sponsor the pipe band to play for 30 to 45 minutes per bar.

”The bagpipes play into the night, she said, not falling silent around 2 a.m.

“Every bar is packed,” Olk said. “It’s a huge event.”

If music is your thing, then Miles City is your place. The Miles City Music on Wings Bluegrass Festival takes the stage on Sept. 19 through 21.

There will be an open stage on Friday night, said Festival Chairwoman Gloria Tucker, but the festival will begin in earnest on Saturday at 10 a.m., when the six featured bands will rotate every hour throughout the day. The festival will then wrap up on Sunday, when each band performs one set each, she said.

This year’s lineup features Special Concessions, Monroe Crossing, High Plains Tradition, The WoodPicks, Bluegrass for Breakfast, and Milestown.

“It’s just a lot of jamming,” Tucker said.

Montana’s charm is found not only in its scenic splendor, but in its local cultures and communities, as well. So get out under that Big Sky; no matter where you are or what you like, Montana has a festival for you.

Stephen Youmans is a journalism student at the University of Montana.

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