Columbia Falls knows how to throw itself a birthday party: miniature trains, horses running through the streets, fiddlers and dancing.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Columbia Falls’ incorporation as a town. On July 23-26, the annual Heritage Days gathering will celebrate the centennial with a full slate of activities. Shirley Reynolds, who has been involved with Heritage Days for two decades, expects this year’s celebration to draw a large crowd.
“It’s going to be a busy one, for sure,” Reynolds said.
In the 1950s, Columbia Falls was somewhat of a boomtown. The aluminum plant was firing on all cylinders and sawmills dotted the landscape. Jobs were plentiful. To recognize the good times, officials started up Progress Days, Reynolds said.
Over time, Reynolds said Progress Days fizzled out until, after a brief hiatus, Heritage Days replaced it. Since then, Heritage Days has grown into one of Columbia Falls’ largest annual events.
This year’s celebration kicks off on Thursday, July 23. A farmers’ market runs from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., followed by a Lion’s Club concert at Marantette Park. Then on Friday there is a Wildcat endowment barbecue and auction at 5 p.m. and an NRA rodeo at the Blue Moon.
Saturday is the big day. It kicks off with a firemen’s breakfast at Don Anderson Fire Hall and then a three-on-three basketball tournament on First Avenue West. At 8:30 a.m., there’s a boogie-to-the-bank event in which participants can choose to run or walk five or 10 kilometers. Prizes are awarded to the top three finishers in each category.
A divisional swim meet is also in town, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at Pinewood Park. Reynolds said the meet will bring in additional crowds to Heritage Days and organizers have planned accordingly. There will be a teen dance with two bands at the Glacier Gateway Gymnasium on Fourth Avenue West from 7 to 10 p.m. While it’s open to any teenager, it is particularly convenient for the youths in town for the swim meet, Reynolds said.
A number of events will be held throughout the day on Saturday, but one of the biggest draws is the parade on Nucleus Avenue at noon. The kids’ parade will be integrated into the main parade. Throughout the day, arts and crafts and food vendors will be set up at the Glacier Discovery Center.
Then at 2 p.m., there is a “Wild Horse Drive” in which horses, guided by cowboys, run the streets from Columbia Heights to the Blue Moon where they are corralled. While the horses are running, the Montana Old Time Fiddlers Association will be playing at Marantette Park.
Reynolds said the wild horse drive “sure gives the out-of-town people a start when they start coming down the street.”
“It’s quite a spectacle if you haven’t seen it,” she added.
In the evening there will be a larch wood regatta on Flathead River and a performance by magician Dan Jimmerson at Marantette Park. The night winds down with a Columbia Falls Food Bank fundraiser and food drive concert at Marantette Park featuring the Canyon Creek Ramblers, who play a fusion of bluegrass, Americana and country-rock. Admission is a voluntary cash donation or a non-perishable food item. Also at 7 p.m. is a rodeo at Blue Moon.
Sunday, the event’s final day, begins with the 9 a.m. Wildcat Endowment Golf Tourney at Glacier View Golf Course. The divisional swim meet also continues at Pinewood Park. At 9:30 there’s a non-denominational community church service at Marantette Park.
There will be medieval demonstrations and miniature train rides throughout the weekend. There is no admission charge to Heritage Days but people can purchase buttons for $1 and be eligible for cash card prizes at local grocery stores and service stations.
For more information on registering for the parade or other events, and for general questions, call Shirley Reynolds at 892-0178 or go to www.cfallsheritagedays.com.
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