EXPERIENCE Whitewater Festival


DISCOVER TALENT Bigfork Summer Playhouse




Whitewater Festival

Photo by Greg Lindstrom

EXPERIENCE Whitewater Festival

The Swan River’s Wild Mile near Bigfork has likely attracted whitewater boaters as long as there has been watercraft available to maneuver it.

But in 1975, a group of kayaking enthusiasts made their love for the Wild Mile official, starting the popular Bigfork Whitewater Festival.

Forty years later, the festival has evolved and adapted to the times, but remains a steadfast tradition dedicated to the love of paddling the challenging water features.

The 2015 Bigfork Whitewater Festival takes place May 22-24, with competitions in all things whitewater: kayaking, rafting, canoeing and even stand-up paddleboarding. Courses include the slalom, giant slalom and downriver categories.

Even though the festival was built on the passion for tackling the rapids, the spectator experience is nearly as exhilarating, thanks to observing areas close to the river throughout the course, ensuring no wild turn is left without applause.

And once each day’s activities are complete, spectators and athletes gather at Bigfork restaurants and watering holes to discuss the heroisms and crashes of the day, giving the festival a true sense of community and camaraderie.

Despite its humble roots and relatively small size, the festival attracts some of the top kayaking talent from around the country, so be sure to check out the roster and see some of the best athletes in the sport.

At the end of the festival, the overall winner will be the boater with the fastest combined time from the upper slalom, downriver and giant slalom races. But really, when the water’s this great and the competition this fierce, everyone wins.

For more information, visit www.bigforkwhitewaterfestival.com.


Montana Creston Auction

Photo by Lido Vizzutti


Touted as the largest outdoor springtime event in Montana, the Creston Auction draws thousands of people for a weekend-long celebration of stuff.

In its 49th year, the famed auction is 12 miles east of Kalispell on Montana Highway 35, April 11-12. As many as 7,000 people regularly turn out to rummage through rows of items, from building materials, appliances, household merchandise, sports equipment, tools, tack and antiques. It’s an ideal — and lively — place to score locally made arts and crafts or a quirky, classic antique. Auctioneers standing on wagons are pulled down the rows of stuff as they sell it to the highest bidder until it’s all gone. There is no buyer’s premium and a bid number costs $5. The wide-open, free-for-all nature of the event makes it less intimidating than more traditional auctions.

Funds raised at the auction support the all-volunteer Creston Fire Department. Entrance and parking are free.

The festivities begin Friday, April 10, with “Consignment Day,” when items can be consigned, meaning the largest portion of the sale goes back to the seller, or is donated. Merchandise is accepted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the grounds in Creston.

On Saturday, April 11, the action begins bright and early at 8 a.m.

Last year’s auction netted more than $45,000. All proceeds are used for additional training programs and firefighting equipment for the local department.

For more information, call 406-250-7396 or visit www.crestonfire.org.


Bigfork Summer Playhouse

Photo by Lido Vizzutti

DISCOVER TALENT Bigfork Summer Playhouse

One of the premier repertory theaters in the West is celebrating its 56th season starting in late May.

The Bigfork Summer Playhouse has a long-standing tradition of bringing talented actors and actresses from across the country to perform a variety of renowned productions in the theater by the bay. The Playhouse has seen many talented performers grace the stage, perhaps most notably J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar in February for best supporting actor. Simmons began his acting career at the Playhouse in the summer of 1977 and spent six seasons with the local theater.

This season will feature another exciting lineup of shows: Smokey Joe’s Café, Man of LaMancha, The Addams Family, Annie and Footloose. The season starts with weekend performances May 15 and launches into its normal summer schedule in early June.

Producers regularly audition more than 3,000 actors from across the country, choosing 20, all between the ages of 20 and 30 years old.

The Bigfork Summer Playhouse was founded in 1960 by Dr. Firman ‘Bo’ Brown and his wife Margery Hunter Brown as a place for University of Montana theater students to perform in the summer. In 1964, Brown hired Don Thomson, who is now, along with wife, Jude Thomson, and son, Brach Thomson, the producer.

The Playhouse productions are performed in the 435-seat theater on Electric Avenue in downtown. For a schedule of performances and more information, call 406-837-4886 or visit www.bigforksummerplayhouse.com.


Whitefish Mountain Resort Pond Skim

Photo by Greg Lindstrom


The sun-softened snow on Big Mountain makes for ideal spring skiing as the 2014-15 season at Whitefish Mountain Resort draws to a close. And, as recreational attention turns to warm-weather pursuits, skiers and snowboarders will have one last opportunity to combine the two.

The final weekend on the mountain will feature the 10th Annual Pond Skim, which draws a crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 spectators as costume-clad skiers compete for cash prizes by bombing downhill and attempting to skim from one end of a pond to the other without crashing.

Historically, the crashes have been both spectacular and frequent, and this year’s event on April 11 promises to be no different, particularly as event organizers have added new challenges and obstacles.

In the second round of the pond skim, skiers and snowboarders will have to negotiate either a jump or a limbo pole while still maintaining enough momentum to finish the skim.

“Otherwise, they swim,” said Riley Polumbus, the resort’s public relations manager.

The survivors of the second round advance to the third round, which features dangling $100 bills that competitors try to grab mid-skim. The bills are fake, and competitors exchange them for cash afterward.

In previous years, the event has been a war of attrition and the last skier standing won a $1,000 purse.

Learn more at www.skiwhitefish.com.


Montana Spartan Race

Photo by Greg Lindstrom


Residents of Northwest Montana take pride in pushing themselves to the limits in the great outdoors. There are races to be run, mountains to be climbed and rivers to be conquered. Eavesdrop into most conversations at a local bar or brewery on a Sunday evening and the conversations are not about what locals have to do Monday, it’s what they did outdoors on Saturday and Sunday.

There may be no steeper challenge this season than the Montana Spartan Race at the Averills’ Flathead Lake Lodge on May 9-10 near Bigfork. The event, now in its third year, has quickly become one of the most popular springtime events in the Flathead Valley. This year, organizers are offering two versions of the obstacle race. On May 9, participants can take part in the grueling 12-mile Spartan Beast race. On May 10, folks can take a shot at the 3-mile Spartan Sprint. Fifteen to 25 obstacles stand in the way of racers and the finish line, but it’s a rewarding trek with stunning views of Flathead Lake and the surrounding forest. Even if you don’t partake in the race, there are plenty of festivities surrounding the event. For more information visit www.spartan.com.