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Celebrate the Fourth in Bigfork

BIGFORK, MT…Bigfork knows how to throw a party.  And when it’s our country’s birthday, Bigfork really knows how to celebrate.  Centerpiece of the celebration is the annual parade through Bigfork which begins at noon.  Voted the “Best Parade” in the Flathead Valley, the theme of this year’s parade will be “Celebrating America’s Heroes”. Co-Grand Marshalls will be Hal Curtiss and the members of Bigfork High School’s state championship basketball team. Music will once again be provided by the Community Band which is scheduled to begin playing in front of the Bigfork Inn at 11:30 a.m.

At approximately 12:05 pm, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion honor guard will present the colors in front of the Bigfork Inn and Robin Gough will sing the Star Spangled Banner. The parade will then continue down Electric Avenue to the bridge.

Later in the afternoon, yellow plastic ducks will take the place of kayaks on the Swan River’s Wild Mile as the Ducks for Bucks race gets underway. Many of Bigfork’s shops, galleries and restaurants will be open featuring specials for the day and weekend.

Entries for the parade are encouraged to register in advance and follow the theme of the parade.  Line-up will be on Grand Drive.  All entries must be in place by 11:15 a.m. when the streets will be closed to traffic. Judging of entries will take place during the parade and awards will be given at the Bigfork Fire Hall barbecue in the afternoon. For a registration form and a list of parade entry rules, visit www.bigfork.org.

Other events on the Fourth include the 4th Annual Freedom 5K Run/Walk which will begin at 8:30 a.m. Registration for the event begins at 7:30 a.m.  The race course will start at Brookies Cookies on Mill Avenue, run along the Swan River Nature Trail and back to Brookies.  To register in advance, visit www.gratefulnationmontana.com.  There will be t-shirts for the first 100 registrants.

There will also be a free Pancake Breakfast at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. In addition to pancakes, the menu will feature sausage, eggs and orange juice. The church is located at 121 Crestview Drive.

An Old-Fashioned Holiday

Every November, community volunteers known as the Bigfork Elves head into the forest and to the local tree farms to cut fresh evergreen trees.  Others twist, test and turn more than ten thousand colored lights while nimble fingers tie hundreds of bright red bows.  It all comes together on the Saturday before Thanksgiving when the Elves gather to decorate Bigfork with fresh evergreen garlands and those trees, bows and lights.  Their efforts create a background for an old-fashioned Christmas celebration known for good food, great music, art and, of course, Santa Claus.

Starting with that first Saturday, every weekend contains activities inside and out.  There’s the Art Walk where visitors can stroll through galleries and shops before heading for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree.  But before the lights go on, there are candy canes for the kids, traditional carols and the traditional recitation of “The Night Before Christmas”.

The first weekend in December, Bigfork welcomes Santa with the annual Holiday Parade immediately followed by a “Touch of Christmas” in the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.  The Center also hosts performances of the Nutcracker and the Bigfork Summer Playhouse Children’s Theatre delights audiences with their version of “A Christmas Carol”.

When the snow falls, many take to the slopes for downhill skiing at Blacktail Mountain or Whitefish Mountain Resort. The Flathead National Forest welcomes cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers. For a slower pace, some venture out on snowshoes or a simple winter hike on the Swan River Nature Trail.  There’s skating on frozen ponds and ice fishermen hunker down over their favorite fishing hole.

Bigfork in the winter becomes a magical place where families and friends can enjoy their time together.  It’s no wonder that this village on Flathead Lake has become known as Montana’s Christmas Village.

I Love Bigfork for Weddings

“I’ve always wanted to be married on a lake in Montana” said the young bride-to-be when she called the visitor center for information.  Had she ever been to Montana? No. But it was her dream to be married under Montana’s Big Sky.  So she became one of a growing number of brides who chose Bigfork for her wedding.

Some brides choose Bigfork for their wedding because they fondly remember family vacations on Flathead Lake. Many have friends and relatives in the area.  Others regularly visit Bigfork and want their family and friends to join them on their special day. Whatever the reason, whatever the season, Bigfork has become a wedding destination.

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Common Questions from our Visitors

As people shop our galleries, enjoy our restaurants or spend a day on the water, they also have questions about Bigfork and the area. A number of questions center on the same things; Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake or a special event. So when you’re packing for your next visit to Bigfork, here’s a list of the most common questions and answers about our little corner of the world.

Glacier National Park  www.nps.gov/glac 

  • How far is Glacier?  The West Glacier entrance to the park is about 40 miles from Bigfork.
  • How long will it take to get to Glacier? Remember, you’re driving in the mountains and most roads are two-lane, so it will take about one hour to arrive at West Glacier.
  • How do I get to Glacier Park? From Bigfork drive north on Montana Highway 35 to Highway 206. Take a right on 206 and drive north to Highway 2.. Take a right on Highway 2.  Turn left at the entrance to West Glacier.
  • When does Glacier Park open? The park itself is always open. Many of the lodges and other facilities operate only during the summer months. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is usually closed by snow from September through mid-June.
  • How long is the Going-to-the-Sun Road? The road is approximately 52 miles long, opening up the interior of the park, linking West Glacier with St Mary.
  • How long will it take to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road? That depends. This is a two-lane mountain road and renovations and repairs are ongoing. But the scenery is spectacular! Just take your time and take the day. (Okay, if you really want to just drive from one side to the other with no stops, plan on two hours, but you’ll sure miss a lot!)

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Bigfork Works

Bigfork is more than 100 years old.  And there have been a lot of changes over the years. Like many western towns built on timber and the railroads, the early history was one of boom and bust. Now Bigfork has settled down into a community known for Flathead Lake, beautiful mountains, fine art, fine dining and theater. But behind the scenes, there are numerous businesses that provide the services necessary to live and work here year-round.  In other words, just like communities everywhere, small business is building and supporting Bigfork.

Bigfork is not your typical community of less than 1500 permanent residents. This is partly due to the fact that, while the town itself is not that large, it is on the southern edge of Flathead County, one of Montana’s fastest-growing counties. With a population of more than 87,000 people, Flathead County provides a large and ever-growing market for Bigfork’s attractions, shops and services.

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The Beginnings of Bigfork

What is now Bigfork was once a gathering place for the native tribes who camped by the lake to take advantage of the abundant natural resources of the area. Just north and east of town, the Flathead River empties into Flathead Lake while the Swan River rushes into the lake at Bigfork Bay. Some say that Bigfork took its name from the Swan River which was also referred to as the Big Fork of the Flathead River.

The town became “Bigfork” in 1901 when it was officially platted by Everit L. Sliter who arrived two years before.  By the time he began to officially create the town, Sliter had purchased land, bought and sold the trading post and built a 14-bedroom house where he began to rent rooms.  The original description of the town said that it was “nothing more than cut over stump land.”  Sliter purchased a stump puller and began to work. That same year, the Post Office was established with Sliter as the first postmaster.

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