ENJOY THE SEASON Fall in Glacier
Bidding farewell to summer and embracing fall can be a bittersweet experience in the Flathead Valley, particularly when it means that the stunning, scenic panoramas of Glacier National Park viewed along the Going-to-the-Sun Road recede in the rearview mirror.
Because of the multi-year Sun Road rehabilitation project, the scenic byway has been closing a month early since 2007, shutting its gates the third week of September and halting vehicle access to Logan Pass on the west side at Avalanche Creek.
This year, however, the sun won’t set on the iconic road so early, figuratively speaking, as park officials have extended operations for another month to allow visitors to enjoy the fall colors and fickle mountain weather until Oct. 19.
As the first American roadway designated both a National Historic Landmark and a National Civil Engineering Landmark, the road construction is viewed as a necessary evil by residents and visitors who recognize the inconvenience as an investment in the future of Glacier Park’s infrastructure.
Following the closure to Logan Pass, 10 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (from park headquarters at West Glacier to the Lake McDonald Lodge) will be maintained throughout the winter.
In the spring, plowing park roads and the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a monumental challenge, and unpredictable spring snowstorms or other weather related events tend to slow down plowing progress.
So enjoy the autumn access to Logan Pass while you can.
RAISE YOUR GLASS Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest, held every fall in Whitefish’s Depot Park, is quickly emerging as one of the valley’s most cherished annual autumn events. For two weekends in September and October, this ski town perched at the top of the Flathead is brimming with Bavarian pride. In 2013, nearly 8,000 people enjoyed six days of events, including stein holding and log cutting contests, waitress races and more beer and brats than anyone should consume on a regular basis.
The event’s roots come from Munich, Germany where a royal wedding was held 200 years ago and the entire town was invited. Since then it’s been a cherished tradition celebrating the coming of autumn and, five years ago, local officials thought it would be a good one to bring to Whitefish.
The event kicks off on Sept. 26 with a local’s night where Flathead County residents get in for free. It runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday until Oct. 4. For more information visit www.whitefishoktoberfest.com.
GET LOST Sweet Pickin’s Pumpkin Patch and the Fritz Corn Maze
Nothing embodies autumn quite like a pumpkin.
At the Sweet Pickin’s Pumpkin Patch, finding the perfect jack-o-lantern becomes an exciting treasure hunt among a boundless field of glowing orange globes, ripe for the taking. The large acreage, located at 512 Kingfisher Lane outside Kalispell, has grown in popularity over the years and now features a full suite of family activities, including a petting zoo with goats, alpacas and sheep, a hay-bail race track with mini cars and other fun options. But be sure to get there early to find the ideal pumpkin for carving and decorating — the best ones go fast.
Sweet Pickin’s is open through Oct. 31. Admission is free for children 2 and under.
Another tradition of autumn is the Fritz Corn Maze. For nearly a decade, Heidi and Chris Fritz have created a large corn maze on their family’s farmland. The popular experience is family friendly and exciting for all ages. The Fritz family also sets up other activities, including a mini-golf course alongside vendors.
The corn maze is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for anyone 5 and older. For more information, visit the Fritz’s Facebook page. The maze is located on Birch Road East off of U.S. Highway 2, about a mile south of the Glacier Park International Airport.
HANG ON Cinch Bucking Horse Championships
Some of the nation’s best cowboys are coming to Kalispell once again for the rides of their lives. The Cinch Bucking Horse Championships, at Majestic Valley Arena Oct. 4-5, is a premier rodeo event that features daring cowboys riding rowdy saddle broncs and bulls from across North America. Many of these 4- and 5-year-old broncs will be future world champion bucking horses and this event is one of their showcases before advancing up the ranks. Last year’s event drew hundreds of spectators to the Majestic Valley Arena and offered $70,000 in prize money. This year’s event will feature a barrel racing competition, celebrity team roping and the always-popular wife carrying contest. The Oct. 4 event is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the Oct. 5 event is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit worldclassbuckinghorseassociation.com or www.majesticvalleyarena.com.
LOCAL TRADITION The Nutcracker
There’s no better transition from the autumnal world of Thanksgiving to the sugarplum Christmas season than the Northwest Ballet Company’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.”
The company, part of the Kalispell-based Northwest Ballet School, will perform the holiday classic the weekend after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28 – Nov. 30, at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.
We’re not overstating it when we say this is a beloved tradition in the Flathead; the company has been performing this show in front of packed houses for 21 years. Not only is the Nutcracker an easily recognizable show in the ballet world – making it accessible for all ages – but it’s also a great time to showcase the valley’s local dancing talent.
Showtimes are 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 29, and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 30.
For ticketing information, call 406-755-0760 or visit www.northwestballet.com.