On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence from Great Britain.
The following day, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that Americans would celebrate that day, “with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Adams may have been off by two days, but his words were otherwise startlingly prescient. Congress approved the Declaration of Independence July 4, and that day, of course, has become the holiday upon which Americans celebrate their independence.
And let’s be frank: In the Flathead, it’s one of the biggest, best parties of the year, with activities spanning the day from Polson to Whitefish. Summer is fleeting, so plan your holiday outing with our rundown of everything happening on July 4.
There’s nowhere better than Bigfork to be on July 4.
Get warmed up at the Grateful Nation Fun Run, which begins at Brookies Cookies at 9 a.m., following a route out-and-back along the Swan Nature Trail.
The parade starts at noon with a fly-over from an F-15 jet fighter. All four branches of the military will be represented as well as the procession moves through downtown.
“This parade is going to be incredible,” Bruce Solberg, executive director of the Bigfork Chamber of Commerce, said.
A children’s carnival with games and prizes will start after the parade at the Bigfork Fire Hall. At 4 p.m., the Ducks for Bucks race begins. A fundraiser for scholarships at Bigfork High, competitors buy one of 300 ducks, which are then released into the Swan River and the first three to pass under the bridge win.
In the evening, things get rowdy, with celebrations at the storied Garden Bar and live blues at Marina Cay, among other happenings. Down in Woods Bay, the Sitting Duck will have live music and a “blow your mind” fireworks production.
A local tradition is parking the boat along the northern end of Flathead Lake to watch the fireworks exploding over the water, and an informal competition has developed over the year between homeowners and lakefront businesses who take their pyrotechnics very seriously.
“The north end of this lake – it is lit up like nobody’s business,” Solberg said. “There’s no bad seat in the house; I mean you can just see them from everywhere.”
In Whitefish, the fireworks over the lake begin at dusk. The best place to view the display is from City Beach, and an array of vendors will be set up in the parking lot offering food and drinks. Downtown is going to be hopping as well, with Jameson and the Sordid Seeds playing at the Great Northern Bar.
It’s already a busy weekend, with an arts festival in Depot Park beginning Friday, July 1 and running through Sunday. On Saturday, the Stumptown Quilters Society’s annual show begins at 10 a.m. at Whitefish Middle School. That same day a sidewalk chalk-drawing contest is scheduled for City Beach at noon.
Lakeside is another key location for July 4 parties. The fireworks display begins between 10 p.m. and11 p.m., and the pyrotechnics will be synced with music by Bee Broadcasting.
Check out Lakeside’s bars and restaurants for further celebrations: The Spinnacker will have live tunes by Dangerous; Smart Alex will be performing at the Homestead and The Docks will have live entertainment as well.
The festivities begin early in Polson with the 1.1-mile Third Annual Firecracker 1776 run or walk, beginning at 11:40 a.m. Race day registration goes from 11:10-11:30 a.m. at St. Joseph Medical Center. There’s no entry fee, other than a non-perishable food item for the Polson Food Bank.
The Centennial Fourth of July parade begins at noon. The route starts at the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum on Main Street and Eighth Avenue, ending on Main and Third. (For more info contact Brenda Dennis: email@example.com.) The museum will be holding an ice cream social at 1 p.m.
At dusk, the fireworks launch from the south side of the bridge, sponsored by the Polson Chamber and the Marine Corps League. A great way to see the display will be onboard the KwaTaqNuk Resort’s Shadow Cruise, departing at 9:30 p.m., with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Call Louis to make reservations, for $30: 406-883-3636.
Also going on in the Polson area this weekend, the Arlee Pow Wow Celebration, (www.arleepowwow.com) and Friday, July 1, the Night of Blues at 7 p.m. at Salish Point Park.
In Hot Springs, the Red White & Blues celebration at city park kicks off at 4 p.m. with live music and a fireworks display at dark. (Tickets $8 advance, $10 at gate)
Though many head for the water once dusk arrives, during the day, Kalispell is bustling on July 4. The parade down Main Street begins at 10 a.m. Following that, the Conrad Mansion is hosting an ice cream social from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., featuring patriotic music and food served by local vendors. The mansion will be decorated for the holiday and it’s a great opportunity to take a tour if you’ve never done so, or take one again to remind yourself what a remarkable place it is.
Though many prefer to watch fireworks on the water, a great view can also be had from the lookout of Lone Pine State Park, where you can see the lights over both Flathead and Whitefish lakes.
The anticipation of July 4 festivities also now brings with it the memory of the tragic 2009 fatal collision between two boats on Flathead Lake. Factors in the crash were boats overloaded with people, which may have obscured the view of one of the drivers, and neither boats had navigation lights on.
Flathead County Undersheriff Jordan White recommends anyone heading out on the water to view the fireworks conduct a “pre-check” of their boat to ensure the navigation lights are functional. He also encourages the use of a designated driver, and urges boaters to control their speed, particularly in the congested areas around Lakeside, Somers and Bigfork.
“The issue after the fireworks is boats are traveling back and forth across the lake,” White said. “If there isn’t lighting, then it gets to be a problem.”
The Sheriff’s Office will have two boats patrolling Flathead Lake, in cooperation with patrols from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, so expect to encounter law enforcement out on the water.
“We’ll be hands-on, making sure that we’re being as proactive as we can,” White said.
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