Visitors to Montana often marvel how summer days seem to last forever here. With new discoveries around every bend in the river or trail, this is a place where the familiar humdrum of life is replaced by a barrage of new sensory experiences: The dizzying scents of wild mint and sage underfoot, the cries of loons piercing the morning mist on McGregor Lake, the sight of a grizzly bear lumbering amid the peaks of Glacier National Park. As the mind expands, time seemingly does the same.
It helps that the daylight hours here are literally longer than most Americans are used to: At the height of summer, the sun remains above the horizon for more than 16 hours — an hour longer than in Denver, two hours longer than in Dallas.
And then as you continue your day after daylight is gone (and if you’re a bit out of town), scan the northern horizon for the yellows, oranges and reds of the Aurora Borealis … The Northern Lights don’t run on a schedule, but summertime is a good time and you might just see something amazing.
In Kalispell, locals know how to make the most of summer’s bonus hours. Not a week goes by without some kind of festival, concert or community event here.
If you’re trying to decide when to schedule a vacation to the Flathead Valley or Glacier National Park, consider this short list of don’t-miss events to anchor your visit.
Glacier Symphony Summer Concerts
No matter what else you do during your day here, relax and enjoy the heartfelt sounds of the Glacier Symphony. July 7–8, the Symphony Pops concert celebrates the movies — under the stars might even be better than in your car at the drive-in. These open-air concerts at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell are sure to thrill ears and hearts of all ages.
“Mountains by Day – Music by Night,” the symphony’s Festival Amadeus is August 8–13, and features an array of renown artists and a range of gorgeous classical music. Summer 2017 marks the festival’s 10th anniversary and it will be special indeed.
Arts in the Park
July 14–16, 2017
As Northwest Montana’s largest and longest running art and entertainment fair, Arts in the Park is a summertime favorite. This juried art show, now in its 49th year, is a favorite for browsing and buying high-quality jewelry, clothing, photography, paintings, pottery, glass and other artwork. Kalispell’s Depot Park will be the temporary home to more than100 booths highlighting the work of fine artists and craftsmen. In addition to the art, enjoy live music, wonderful local foods, kids activities and a premium wine and beer garden. A fundraiser for the Hockaday Museum of Art, entrance fees are $3/day or $5/weekend pass. (No charge for children ages 6 and younger.)
The Event at Rebecca Farm
July 19–23, 2017
A celebration of harmony and partnership between horse and rider, The Event at Rebecca Farm is renowned as the biggest English-style horse riding competition in the United States. The Event celebrates the sport of “eventing,” described as an equestrian triathlon with historic military ties meant to replicate what a horse and rider would go through in the cavalry. This four-day, free-admission extravaganza features more than 450 competitors, 350 volunteers and over 20,000 spectators, all of whom come to experience the best in equestrian elegance and excitement — topped off by a heart-pounding cross-country competition.
Northwest Montana Fair & Rodeo
August 16–22, 2017
When it comes to experiencing local color and deep tradition, there’s nothing like a hometown Montana fair and rodeo. And you can’t do better than the Northwest Montana Fair & Rodeo. For more than 115 years residents and visitors have converged for this annual event, which features three nights of PRCA rodeo action (August 18-20), Sunday night Demolition Derby, concerts, carnival rides and more. Here you’ll experience the unparalleled fast-paced excitement of Indian relay races, a traditional competition in which riders race bareback and change horses on the fly. Pig wrestling competitions provide a more comical experience; and the demolition derby is — literally and figuratively — always a hit.
Crown Guitar Festival
August 27 – September 2, 2017
For those who play guitar and/or just love to listen to its tones, this weeklong festival celebrates all things and all styles of this instrument with a full slate of workshops and concerts. World renown artists in residence for the event include Albert Lee, dobro master Jerry Douglas, grammy winner Jason Vieaux and a week’s worth more. Events during the Crown Guitar Workshop & Festival are based at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork. You can learn more here.
Even if you can’t make it to Kalispell during one of those events, you’ll find plenty to do here.
From 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday, visitors and residents can stock up on pottery, wood works, photography, veggies and more at the Kalispell Farmers Market, held on the campus of Flathead Valley Community College. One of Montana’s oldest seasonal markets, it typically runs into October, inviting visitors and residents to enjoy the bounty of the harvest and meet the farmers, artisans and others who call this place home.
The lawn in front of the Museum at Central School is the place to be on Thursday evenings for the weekly Thursday!Fest. Part carnival, part concert and part food fair, Thursday!Fest is all fun every week starting June 29 (not ending until August 31). Find details about the weekly musical lineup and other activities at this link.
Starting late June and continuing every Tuesday evening and Wednesday lunchtime into early August, Depot Park in downtown Kalispell plays host to Picnic in the Park, a concert series featuring food and beverage vendors.
Photo credit: Shannon Brinkman