HOT TO TROT The Event at Rebecca Farm

BE INSPIRED Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival and Workshop

GO GREEN Whitefish Farmers Market

CAN’T MISS Northwest Montana Fair

COMMEMORATE Lake McDonald Lodge

ART OF FLIGHT Mountain Madness Air Show

OFF THE GRID Polbridge Mercantile

COOL OFF Lake Koocanusa

GONE PICKIN’ Cherries

CELEBRATE Fourth of July


HOT TO TROT The Event at Rebecca Farm

Thirteen years later, The Event at Rebecca Farm is one of the most renowned equestrian triathlons in the world. It’s also the nation’s largest, drawing more than 550 riders and thousands of spectators annually to the picturesque countryside near Kalispell for a world-class competition. This summer’s grand gathering — July 24-27 — promises yet another memorable installment filled with pageantry and spectacular action as riders and their horses brave the three classic elements of equestrianism — dressage, cross-country and show jumping. Called eventing, the sport tests both horse and rider through a series of challenges, disciplines and courses. The Event regularly attracts a lineup of top-notch competitors, including former Olympians and riders from around the world. There’s also a youth series that gives up-and-coming riders the chance to tackle the same course as their more experienced idols. Admission for spectators is free, although a $5 donation is encouraged to raise money for “Halt Cancer at X,” an initiative to raise money for breast cancer research in memory of The Event’s founder, the late Rebecca Broussard. For more information on The Event, visit www.rebeccafarm.org.

The Event at Rebecca-Farm


BE INSPIRED Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival and Workshop

The Flathead Valley has been an artistic inspiration ever since humans decided to express themselves, and the folks down at the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation have used this natural endowment to their advantage.

In its fifth year now, the foundation’s annual festival and workshop, taking place Aug. 24-31, is bigger and better than ever, attracting some of the most talented and well-known guitarists from around the world to teach at its weeklong workshop classes and play at the public concerts each night at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork.

It’s truly a unique experience to have such masters on stage in this environment, and this year’s lineup includes Mike Stern, Ana Popovic, Shelby Lynne, Lee Ritenour, David Leisner, John Oates, and more.

Along with the big-name concerts, the festival and workshop series is getting more national and international attention as it continues to evolve and grow, so be sure to check it out to be able to say you knew it before it exploded in popularity.

For more information, visit www.cocguitarfoundation.org.

Crown-of-Continent-Guitar


GO GREEN Whitefish Farmers Market

The verdant bounty of summer has burgeoned in the Flathead Valley, and the green thumbs responsible for growing it are converging on the Whitefish Downtown Farmers Market, peddling their leafy wares alongside craftsmen at the north end of Central Avenue.

Flanked by live music and food vendors, the farmers of the Flathead Valley showcase the freshest produce of the season and provide the opportunity to truly “know your farmer.”

Ask about your farmer’s favorite method for preparing a vegetable, what produce they’ll be harvesting next and whether they expect the weather to impact crops.

Unlike corporate agriculture, family farms are run by folks who live on the land and depend on its productivity for their livelihood. They depend on local demand to sustain them and, as stewards of the soil, their food is grown for flavor, not shelf life.

Energy is saved when you purchase food that was shipped a few miles to market, as opposed to a few thousand.

Held every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the Whitefish Downtown Farmers Market runs from May 27 until Sept. 30.

For a list of farms and maps represented at the Farmers Market, visit nourishtheflathead.org or visit whitefishfarmersmarket.org.

Whitefish-Farmers-Market


CAN’T MISS Northwest Montana Fair

Summer in Montana isn’t complete without a trip to the annual fair, where the food is hot, fresh and delicious, the entertainment is traditional and western to the core, and the people are the heart and soul of the community.

Truly, there is nothing better than a fair that encapsulates a good summer night in Montana, and the Northwest Montana Fair, taking place Aug. 13 – 17 at the Flathead County Fairgrounds, knows how to put on a good, family-friendly time.

The carnival provides the rides and games, while the expo centers and various buildings on site hold the best of what the Flathead Valley’s 4-H and FFA participants have to offer.

The historic grandstands will offer the best seat in the house for some of the most exciting entertainment offered throughout the week, with the rodeo series, ever-popular demolition derby, and live music.

For ticketing and scheduling information, visit www.nwmtfair.com.

Northwest-Montana-Fair


COMMEMORATE Lake McDonald Lodge

On the shores of Lake McDonald, one of Glacier National Park’s legendary lodges strikes a regal pose above the mirror-like body of water, the lake’s silver-smooth surface sprawled out over 10 miles of the glacial-carved valley.

Surrounded by snow-mottled peaks, the lodge’s wood-and-stone framed superstructure is cast in brilliant relief against Glacier Park’s highest mountains, and its balconies offer some of the most striking views in Montana.

This summer, however, there’s more to celebrate than the scenery – the historic Lake McDonald Lodge is observing its 100th birthday.

Located 10 miles from Glacier’s west entrance, the Lake McDonald Lodge was initially known as the Lewis Glacier Hotel, and was the second hotel on the site. It opened in 1914 and was later purchased by the National Park Service.

Lake-McDonald-Lodge


ART OF FLIGHT Mountain Madness Air Show

The United States Airforce Thunderbirds, “America’s ambassadors in blue,” are coming to the Flathead Valley this summer for what is sure to be an unforgettable show. The Thunderbirds, designated the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit, were created in 1947, just 20 years after Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. Since its inception, 325 officers have been on the team and every year the team tours the nation giving amazing air demonstrations, with F-16 jets doing flips and flying mere inches away from each other. The show is sure to be a highlight of the Mountain Madness Air Show on August 30 and 31. For more information about the event, visit www.mountainairshow.com.

Thunderbirds


OFF THE GRID Polebridge Mercantile

This remote outpost tucked up the North Fork Flathead River opened this summer for its 100th year, celebrating a century as the hub of this backwoods burg, which is home to a small handful of year-round residents and a glut of grizzlies, elk and other critters.

With its opening, the Merc winks away its winter slumber and draws throngs of visitors to an isolated corner of Montana, where Canada and Glacier National Park’s rugged western edge adjoin. Some visitors are on their way to Bowman or Kintla Lakes to hike, boat and backpack, while others come to float the Wild and Scenic North Fork.

But Polebridge is a destination on its own, and the cherry-red, barn-like Mercantile is its centerpiece, harkening back to a bygone era when the Post Office was a social hub and neighbors listened in on one another’s telephone conversations on a single party line.

The Merc was built in 1914 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the only route to Polebridge from the Flathead Valley is a scenic drive along the transparent blue-green waters of the North Fork, on an unpaved stretch of Montana 486 known simply as the North Fork Road.

There wasn’t much to do then, but visitors who brave the dusty, wash-boarded road – and who don’t mind going without cell service, Internet, electricity, and most other trappings of modern society – are rewarded with striking views of the park and an array of the Merc’s baked goodies, like huckleberry bear claws, cinnamon rolls, pocket sandwiches and macaroons, as well as microbrew, coffee, and good conversation with the friendly proprietors.

A newly constructed interpretive nature trail informs visitors about the pristine ecology of the North Fork corridor, as well as the history of wildfires that tore through the valley, their scars now sprouting verdant new undergrowth.

The shelves of the Merc are also lined with utilitarian offerings like parachute cord and power steering fluid, making it a one-stop resupply shop.

To get there from Columbia Falls, take Montana Highway 486, which becomes the North Fork Road, north roughly 35 miles. The address is 265 Polebridge Loop, and sections of the road are dusty and unpaved.

Polebridge-Mercantile


COOL OFF Lake Koocanusa

Named by Rexford resident Alice Beers in a contest nearly 40 years ago, during the creation of the Libby Dam, Lake Koocanusa is a portmanteau combining the first three letters of the Kootenai River, Canada and the USA.

The reservoir was formed in 1975 by the damming of the Kootenai River by the Libby Dam, and straddles British Columbia and Montana, stretching 48 miles to the south and reaching 42 miles to the north.

Activities abound on Koocanusa, where climbers, cyclists, boaters, and hikers converge every summer.

The 83-mile Le Tour de Koocanusa circumnavigates the reservoir’s breathtaking shoreline and is one of the premier road rides in Northwest Montana, offering cyclists sweeping views of the Tobacco Valley.

Although moderate, the course undulates frequently and gains a total of 5,469 feet.

Cyclists can ride the route themselves, or join the annual Le Tour de Koocanusa benefit ride on Aug. 9. The ride benefits the David Thompson Search and Rescue, which was organized in 1969.

The nearby Stonehill Climbing Area features dozens of routes that will accommodate sport climbers and traditionalists alike, including crags that are excellent for top roping, with permanent bolts for easy rigging, easy walk-off descents and bumper belays along the roadside bluffs.

Lake-Koocanusa


GONE PICKIN’ Cherries

The coming of summer ON FLATHEAD LAKE marks the bloom of cherry season. It’s hard to put an exact date on when you can start rolling up to roadside stands to buy your very own basket of local cherries, but last year the harvest began in late July. It all depends on the weather and the market. There are more than 80 growers around the lake and most are members of the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers Association, which helps organize processing. In the past the only way to get local cherries was to hit up a roadside stand, but now you can pick them up at local grocery stores, too, thanks to a program started by the cooperative in 2011. For more information about the harvest and where you can find fresh local cherries, visit www.montanacherries.com.

Picking Flathead Cherries


CELEBRATE Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is serious business in the hinterlands of Montana, and the lake-and-river strewn Flathead Valley reflects the glittering bonanza of fireworks and the enthusiasm of the region’s residents.

From parades to fireworks displays, the Flathead Valley celebrates its independence in style. Here’s a list of events that will make this holiday a memorable one:

The Kalispell 4th of July Parade, a time-honored tradition, will begin at 10 a.m. on Main Street in downtown. The parade will be followed by an ice cream social at the Conrad Mansion from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Patriotic themes will be the order of the day to celebrate the nation’s birthday as spectators line Main Street, while color guards, veteran and youth groups, floats, and horse clubs trot through Kalispell’s city center and music fills the air.

A traditional parade, the festivities are fun for the entire family, so turn out and show your true colors, be they red, white or blue.

The city of Whitefish’s fireworks show over Whitefish Lake is a mesmerizing spectacle as thousands of people gather on land, at City Beach, and water, converging in floatillas to watch the beautiful array of fireworks. The show begins shortly after dusk on July 4.

Bigfork’s “Ducks for Bucks” event starts July at 4 p.m. when a flock of rubber ducks speeds down the Swan River’s “Wild Mile.” Risking life and wing, these ducks race to the Old Steel Bridge in an effort to snatch a first prize of $200. The second-place duck wins $100 and third duck wins $50.

Now that’s something to quack about.

Ducks can be purchased for $5 or six for $25. Proceeds go to the Bigfork High School Scholarship Program. For more information, call 406-837-5888.

4th-of-July in Northwest Montana