Rocking Labor Day Weekend in Whitefish

By Beacon Staff

Anyone looking to celebrate their Labor Day weekend with a little bit of country and a little bit of rock and roll only need look as far as Whitefish.

The second annual Montana Music Festival, hosted by the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, takes place in Whitefish over Labor Day weekend, from Friday, Aug. 31, through Sunday, Sept. 2.

Chamber executive director Kevin Gartland said this year’s festival tacks on an extra day of music compared to last year’s event, giving audiences a chance to experience three days of rock and roll and country music.

“The whole festival is a country-rock sort of thing,” Gartland said. “We’re looking forward to having some great music up here.”

While it serves as an outdoor music event for the community, the festival will also benefit the Whitefish amphitheater project. Gartland said 100 percent of the proceeds brought in from the festival will go toward that fund.

The amphitheater project is still in its beginning stages, but the idea is to build a permanent band shell that could facilitate large crowds, thus giving Whitefish more of an appeal to bigger acts.

Most of the chamber-sponsored events held this summer were put on to demonstrate that Whitefish needs such a venue, Gartland has said in previous interviews about the amphitheater.

This year’s festival begins with a late-night music celebration at the O’Shaughnessy Center. It’s called the “Montana Band Midnight Jam,” named after the Montana Band and its goal of playing until midnight.

“Last year they made it to 11:55,” Gartland said, a performance that included four encores.

The evening begins with the Kayla Adams Band, a group of local country musicians that takes the stage at 8 p.m. The Montana Band and Friends follow up at 9:30 p.m., and will play the night away.

“That’s the kickoff for folks that are coming in the night before,” Gartland said. “It did sell out last year.”

On Saturday, head to Depot Park for a day of rock and roll and blues music, starting with the Kenny James Miller Band at 2 p.m. At 3:30 p.m., Johnny Vernazza and Austin De Lone will play their special brand of rock and roll as the remaining members of The Knockouts.

Harmonica master Norton Buffalo led the Knockouts before he passed away in 2009. Gartland said the remaining band members donated their time and talent to this year’s music festival.

The Outlaws, a popular southern rock band, will close out the evening with a show beginning at 5:15 p.m.

Sunday’s music will keep some of the rock and roll feel, but move considerably more in the direction of country tunes, Gartland said. The afternoon begins with local musicians Moonshine Mountain at 2 p.m., followed by country duo Blackhawk.

Blackhawk had a string of hits on the country charts in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including “Every Once in a While” and “I’m Not Strong Enough to Say No.” Gartland said audience members will recognize many of the band’s songs, and are in for a “great live performance.”

Finally, The Montana Band and Friends will take the stage at 5:30 p.m. to finish out the evening and the festival.

Tickets for the first two days of the festival are $25 ahead of time or $30 at the door, and Sunday’s shows cost $30 ahead of time or $35 at the door.

There will be a variety of food vendors at the park for the shows, as well as beer, wine and other beverage sales. The chamber invites attendees to bring chairs and blankets for comfortable watching, but to kindly leave pets and outside food and beverages at home.

For more information, visit www.mtmusicfest.com or call the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce at 406-862-3501.

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