Cabin Fever Days a Family Affair

For the Rubys, the festival is a chance to connect to community

By Clare Menzel
Chris Ruby keeps control of his giraffe as Dylan Richmond takes a spill as the pair race The Good, The Bad and The Ugly band during the Barstool Ski Races at the 37th annual Cabin Fever Days in Martin City on Feb. 14, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

A few years back, Alan Ruby, the owner of the Hungry Horse Liquor Store, dressed up as the Lone Ranger and disguised an inflatable Jägermeister bottle as a horse. Then he mounted his steed and sent it down the hill at the Cabin Fever Days barstool ski race. He flew down the snow for a few triumphant moments before he caught an edge and crashed, tweaking his back.

As a local business owner, the Martin City event, which is a major fundraiser, is one of Alan’s favorites.

“You’re laughing side by side on the hill with people and you go, ‘We’re all in this together,’” he said. “We’re not somebody sucking money out of the community. We’re putting it back in. If you’re not involved, you’re just another business owner in the community.”

He wanted to participate in the event the following year, but he knew his barstool racing days were over. So he called in the reserves – his two sons, Chris and Mark – to represent the liquor store.

“I thought, ‘I bet my sons, in their early 20s and 30s, would be much better at healing than I am,’” Alan said. “I had no doubts that they would embrace it.”

Embrace it they have. Chris, who now lives in Missoula, and his friend Dylan Richmond found a barstool from an old science classroom, split a snowboard down the middle, and MacGyvered it to the feet of the barstool. They had panda bear and monkey costumes left over from Halloween, and dressed up the barstool as a banana.

“From there, it kind of evolved,” Chris said. “We didn’t realize what a big hit it’d be, with the younger kids, the monkey and the panda.”

So Chris and Richmond returned the next year with the same costumes and tons of friends in tow. Now the monkey and the panda are Cabin Fever Days mainstays.

“I’m getting as many friends to join and keep bringing attention to the Canyon,” Chris said.

“It’s neat to see it grow,” Mark, who lives in Kalispell, said. “The Canyon has this rough-and-tumble legacy, and some people don’t want to see that go away, but it’s really a family-friendly event and good for a lot of laughs.”

Mark and Chris have a sister, Kelly, who is a youth minister in Bozeman. Every year, she asks for this weekend off to join her family. Because it conflicts with St. Valentine’s Day, she usually can’t make it. But, Alan jokes, maybe that’s a good thing.

“I tell you,” he said. “If all three of them were on the hill one day, the world should look out.”

The festival has many events aside from the signature barstool races, including arm wrestling, shuffleboard, and a pool tourney. There’s also dart and roshambo tournaments at the Stonefly Lounge.

The weekend benefits local nonprofits including the Canyon Quick Response Unit, the Martin City Volunteer Fire Department, Canyon Kids Christmas Fund, and the Canyon Community Group. A $3 Cabin Fever Days button is required for entry at all events, and to ride the shuttle.

“That’s something we’re most proud of,” Alan said. “With the shuttle bus and the sober taxi, the sheriff said we’ve gone five years without a DUI. Cabin Fever Days was notorious for being wild and crazy and drunk. People like to have fun, but nobody likes to get hurt.”

Event organizers have also expanded the event with a whole roster of kids’ events like sled races, balloon relay races, and a magic show on Saturday.

“I’m the president of my rotary club (Kalispell Daybreak Rotary),” Alan said, “and I’ve encouraged people (by saying), ‘I dare you to spend a weekend in the Canyon over Cabin Fever Days and discover the good music, good fun, and outrageous characters that live in my neighborhood.’ And when they do, they find out that they’re not different from the folks that they see at Winter Carnival in Whitefish.”

For a complete schedule of events, visit cabinfeverdays.com. The festival kicks off on Friday, Feb. 12 with mixed doubles pool at 7 p.m. at the Southfork Saloon. Barstool ski races start Saturday at Sugar Hill, right on Main Street in Martin City, and continue the next day with finals and awards.

Will the monkey and panda return to take the win?

“We have a tradition to try to make it last minute, the night before,” Chris said. “We have some new Halloween costumes we might use—but most likely, the monkey and the panda will be there.”

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