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Festival Season - the Huckleberry Festival

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TROUT CREEK, MONTANA— The people who live in and around the small northwestern Montana town of Trout Creek have always known it is special. And many others have learned of the secrets here—friendly people, lots of fun, and a little purple fruit called the huckleberry.

    All three will be celebrated this weekend for the 22nd time at Trout Creek’s Huckleberry Festival. Friends and relatives have often come from near and far, an odyssey of sorts to enjoy this weekend. This year’s theme, appropriately, is 2001--A Huckleberry Odyssey: Past, Present and Future.

    And speaking of the past, Trout Creek this year celebrates an event marking how special the town and festival are. Twenty years ago, former Montana Governor Ted Schwinden proclaimed Trout Creek as Huckleberry Capitol of Montana. In 1981, former state representative for the area, Chris Stobie quickly saw to the request of festival principal Jay Simons for the proclamation--and the honor was bestowed.

    Stobie himself will be among those who “odyssey” to Trout Creek. The former owner of the grocery store in Trout Creek now lives in Hot Springs with his wife Ruby. He said he’s honored to have been invited to Grand Marshal this year’s Saturday parade (11 a.m.).

    There’s a lot of history behind the many events of the Huckleberry Festival—a place where everyone can find some fun. Almost everything takes place in the town park, with Friday visitors finding some of the more than 100 arts, crafts and food booths being open. At 4:30 p.m., local bluegrass group The Mountainaires will take the stage at the park, followed by youth vocalists from the Choraleers singing group from Thompson Falls Elementary. The L’il Miss (ages 7 to 10) and Miss Huckleberry (ages 11 to 14) Pageant begins at 7 p.m. From 9 to 11 p.m., teens have their own Teen Dance, with a local teen DJ playing their favorite CD’s.

    Both Saturday and Sunday, members of Trout Creek Rural Fire Department will serve their famous huckleberry pancake breakfasts from 7 to 11 a.m. at the fire hall at the entrance to the park. The hearty breakfasts include ham, scrambled eggs, coffee and juice. For runners and walkers, a 5K Run for Fun is set to start Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (Register between 7 and 8 a.m. in front of Trout Creek Motel).

    One of the biggest attention getters is the parade, which is set to run along Hwy. 200 in downtown Trout Creek, and moving through the park. Plan to arrive a little early and set up your chairs for the annual event. (To register and take in the fun and available prizes, call Tom Eggensperger at 406-827-3421).

    Of course to some, the big draw of the festival is the quality of the arts and crafts booths, as talented artists and craftspersons venture here from near and far. And, of course, the musical entertainment is first-rate.

    Sandpoint’s Swing Street Big Band will hit the stage first Saturday, beginning at noon. Local traditions, the Pet Parade and Baby Parade, follow Swing Street. People of all ages will have their chance to share their pets (on leashes) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. And at 2:45 p.m., youngsters age one and under are invited to bring their parents down for introductions to the community. Pets and babies receive small gifts.

    Bid big on big and small at the festival auction, set to begin at 3:30 p.m. Viewing of items starts at 3 p.m. Many folks enjoy the fun and excellent auction donations at this feature of the festival.

    At 5:30 p.m., accomplished young fiddler Jennifer Peterson of Noxon will perform on the same stage. She’ll be followed at 7 p.m. by local comic-musician Dave Oliver. Dave, who also doubles as a real estate broker, is the “opener” for big stars the Ron Lloyd Group of Sandpoint, who’ll play Country and Oldies this year for the 8 p.m. Family Dance Under The Stars.

    Sunday’s events include inspirational skits, music and a children’s puppet show at 10 a.m. on the park stage. Author of 70 X 7 And Beyond, Monty Christensen, will address the audience for the interfaith Christian worship service at 11 a.m.

    One of the two popular food contests, the Chili Cookoff, highlights the afternoon. After simmering their flavorful concoctions for several hours, judges will sample chili entries west of the fire hall at 1 p.m. For $1 a sample, the public can follow with their own tasting and judging of “People’s Choice.” Cooking-related prizes are awarded.

    At the same time, a horseshoe competition also gets underway at 1 p.m.

    Sunday’s musical lineup is also a treat—as the Shaughnessy Hill Band of Libby will take the stage from 2 to 5 p.m., playing fun traditional Irish music. The band will be accompanied by the Celtic Cross Dancers of Kalispell. Festival goers are warned: get ready to jig (or learn how)!

    The Huckleberry Dessert Contest rounds out the festival (as well as our waistlines!), with judging at 4 p.m. Tasting is also available when the judges’ have rendered their decisions. Children, as well as others, will receive huckleberry-related prizes for their culinary efforts.

    Throughout the weekend, various artists will demonstrate their talents at a special location. People will also have the chance to buy festival t-shirts, hats and sweatshirts, and tickets to win a 17’ used aluminum jet boat with 115 HP Johnson outboard motor, plus a trailer. The boat raffle will help to purchase new bleachers for the festival grounds.

    And, we can’t get away without mentioning the many food booths which will be open through the weekend. From barbecued chicken meals to hot dogs, from hamburgers to two different kinds of polish dogs, the eating is good! Huckleberry fans have their choice of many fine tastes, including huckleberry ice cream cones, huckleberry milkshakes, huckleberry pizza, grilled polish dogs with huckleberry barbecue sauce, and more.

    And not to worry, there are plenty of things for kids to do. Adventureland, a full carnival of games and much more, is generously being put on by the staff and students of Spring Creek Lodge, a residential school near Trout Creek.

      Sandra Gubel of Thompson Falls is Festival Chairperson for this year’s event.

 

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Sandra Gubel

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