Arts & Entertainment

Fourth of July Off the Beaten Path

This remote postage stamp of Northwest Montana might strike some as an unlikely place for a Fourth of July parade, at least in the traditional sense

POLEBRIDGE – This remote postage stamp of Northwest Montana might strike some as an unlikely place for a Fourth of July parade, at least in the traditional sense – an endless, star-spangled procession along a paved city street, elaborate floats and a baton-twirling, whistle-tooting grand marshal plodding past a throng of spectators.

And while there’s nothing traditional about the Independence Day pageantry in Polebridge, it’s also all about tradition.

The Polebridge Fourth of July parade is a homegrown affair, guaranteed to happen every year on the northwest edge of Glacier National Park for a single simple reason – it happened last year.

Something like 40 years ago, Karen Feather, then-owner of the Northern Lights Saloon, would initiate the parade by hopping on her bicycle and riding off down the dusty road in her stars-and-stripes outfit, regardless of whether people followed her.

Then one year, a horse trotted by a few bystanders, followed by an old military truck and someone waving a flag.

Ever since, the parade has been an annual bacchanalia of patriotism and partying on the stunning stretch of the North Fork Flathead River.

It’s also one of the shortest parades, often colored with humorous political overtones, and the event usually draws 2,000 spectators.

This year, the Lil’ Smokies bluegrass band is slated to play.

Getting there: Head north from Columbia Falls on the North Fork Road. After about 50 miles of bumps and dust, hang a right into downtown Polebridge. Bring chairs, shade umbrellas, and picnic blankets. Leave the fireworks at home. Food and drink is available, as are restroom facilities, but expect long lines for both.

The parade starts around noon, with music to follow.