Heritage Days Celebrates Defining Decade

By Beacon Staff

Columbia Falls locals have been celebrating Heritage Days with parades, concerts and community breakfasts since 1956, and this year the tradition will continue in style.

The theme of the 2013 festival, “Our Town: 1950-1960,” is intended to celebrate a decade of massive development for the town. Within those 10 years, Columbia Falls and the surrounding area saw substantial changes. For example, the Hungry Horse Dam was completed in 1953. Several years later the Anaconda Aluminum plant opened its doors and the Great Northern Railway replaced the old depot with a new building.

“This was a very busy and prosperous time for Columbia Falls,” boasts the Heritage Days website.

The inaugural festival, held in August of 1956, was titled “Progress Days.” In 1975 the celebration was renamed “Western Roundup Days” and did not become “Heritage Days” until 1980. Although the celebration was renamed several times, the purpose of the festival remained the same: to celebrate the prosperity brought about by the industrial expansion of the area, according to Heritage Days organizers.

Every year a small committee gathers in January to begin preparations for the festival. The committee selects a theme to give parade participants something to work with when designing their floats, according to Shirley Reynolds, a committee member.

“We leave [the interpretation of the theme] up to the people in the parade and most of them come up with some pretty good ideas,” said Reynolds.

This year’s Heritage Days schedule boasts a number of lively events. Beginning on Wednesday, July 24, with the annual car show, the festival runs through Sunday, July 28.

A farmers market will be set up in Pinewood Park on Thursday, July 25, followed by free open swimming at the Pinewood Park pool and a Lion’s Club concert at Marantette Park.

On Friday, July 26, the Columbia Bar & Grill will host the Wildcat Athletic Endowment fundraiser auction and a rodeo will take place at the Blue Moon Arena.

Festivalgoers and basketball players alike can kick off the morning of Saturday, July 27, with an early breakfast with the firemen at Don Anderson Fire Hall before the start of the three-on-three tournament. Those not showcasing their skills on the basketball court can run in the Boogie-to-the-Bank 5K or 10K.

At 12 p.m. sharp, the highly anticipated parade, a longstanding festival tradition, will make its way down Nucleus Avenue followed by the wild horse drive at 1:30.

Saturday night will feature another rodeo at the Blue Moon Arena along with a barn dance at Marantette Park, with music by Roy Wilhelm and the Ashley Creek Ramblers.

Heritage Days will conclude on Sunday, July 28, with the 13th annual WAEA Wildcat Endowment golf tournament, followed by a community church service at Marantette Park.

For a detailed schedule of events visit www.cfallsheritagedays.com or call 406-892-2072.

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