As summer begins to wind down and harvest season approaches, towns across Montana celebrate their agricultural heritage.
It’s a time when communities gather to celebrate fall’s bounty, from sugarbeets and chokecherries to craft beer and upland game. These lively, authentic gatherings connect locals and visitors alike with their long-time traditions: cherry pit spitting competitions, celebrity pheasant hunts and stick-horse parades. Here are five of Montana’s most colourful autumnal events...
1. Lewistown's Chokecherry Festival, September 7
Some 24 years ago, Lewistown was named the state’s official Chokecherry Capital. Ever since, the wild-grown, sour fruit takes centre stage each fall in jams, jellies, syrups, wine and other delicacies. Nearly 5,000 attendees join the jubilant atmosphere along historic Main Street, watching pit-spitting competitions and enjoying live entertainment.
2. Chinook's Sugarbeet Festival September 27 - 29
The sugarbeet and its saccharine industry significantly impact the northern town of Chinook. Each fall, the community rallies around the symbolic tuber with a unique festival. A barbecue, hay maze, playful shootout, drive-in movie, games, music and a sugarbeet-growing competition are on the schedule this year.
3. Hamilton's Annual McIntosh Apple Day, October 5 Donnie Sexton
Each October, Hamilton hosts the biggest bake sale in Big Sky Country. Centrally-located in the Bitterroot Valley, the town is a meeting and trading post for surrounding family farms, ranches and orchards. Over 20,000 visitors attend the annual McIntosh Apple Day to buy old-fashioned baked goods filled with locally grown, hand-picked fruit. Aromas of fall waft through the streets of Hamilton as apple butter bubbles, cider is freshly pressed, caramel is poured and families gather for fall’s festive fruit.
4. Havre's Legends For Lights Pheasant Jamboree, October 10 - 13 Dusan Smetana
Every fall, Havre invites NFL sports legends to join the community and hunt some of the state’s finest pheasant. The weekend’s festivities include friendly competitions that pit teams of locals and sports celebrities against each other as they compete in trapshooting, team hunting and culinary events. A final banquet raises awareness for the Northern Lights Athletic Foundation and the MSU-Northern athletic program.
5. Tamarack Festival And Brewfest On Seeley Lake, October 11 - 13
Tamaracks are the only species of coniferous trees that change colour and lose their needles each fall. As the mountain forest turns golden with the changing season, the Tamarack Festival takes place around the pristine waters of Seeley Lake. It’s a celebration of autumn’s beauty, the annual harvest, the local artistic community and the state’s craft brewing industry. Sample locally made soups and sip warming ales. Peruse the arts and crafts stands, learn about the area’s history in ecology and take a hike in a forest of golden foliage.