Heritage Days Coming Alive in Columbia Falls

Festival to celebrate both the town’s history and present

By Amanda Rubano
Columbia Falls' Heritage Days. Beacon File Photo

As Heritage Days returns to Columbia Falls, the annual festival will once again be commemorating the town’s history while also celebrating the community’s modern vibrancy.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, July 27 through Sunday, July 31. This year’s event will celebrate both the old and the new. With the theme of “Coming Alive 2016,” Heritage Days will emphasize the rejuvenation of Columbia Falls.

“The festival brings us together with our new surroundings and a chance to reflect on our beginnings,” Shirley Reynolds, president of the Heritage Days committee, said. “Heritage Days remind people that we have residents who are willing to support each other and the town, during the good times and the lulls.”

In 1985, the community launched the Coming Alive initiative to help revive Columbia Falls, which had hit a lull.

“There used to be dress shops and restaurants – the town was alive. It had what you needed,” Reynolds said. “Then there was a vacancy in town for some number of years and residents had to leave to get anything.”

The community then began seeing businesses coming back to give it the spark it was missing. Today, that spark is still there.

“Heritage Days celebrate the influx of new businesses and vibrant perspectives of people who are dedicated to this town, ” Stacey Schnebel, director of the Columbia Falls Chamber of Commerce, said.

The festival gives Flathead residents the chance to think about Columbia Falls as a community, educating both newcomers and veterans of C-Falls alike. The town cherishes Heritage Days so much that graduates of Columbia Falls High School often schedule their class reunions on the same weekend.

“This has made the festival more community oriented,” Reynolds said. “It gives people a chance to share memories of C-Falls from when they were kids.”

For the first time, Heritage Days will host an arm-wrestling tournament, held by the American Arm Wrestling Association is conducting a tournament for both men and women on Saturday, July 30, at the Bandit Saloon.

“It will bring in a lot of spectators from out of town to help the vendors with an activity that is most unusual and exciting at the same time,” Matt Phillips, state director of the American Arm Wrestling Association, said.

The tournament welcomes all levels of competitors. Phillips will be hosting an arm-wrestling clinic for first-time competitors from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., during the same time as weigh-ins, at the Bandit Saloon. The tournament will begin at 4 p.m. and feature men’s right and left hand, and women’s right hand.

“The atmosphere of sportsmanship is strong but the spectatorship is even stronger,” Phillips said. “I would like to see what the Columbia Falls folks bring to the table.”

Another new addition to Heritage Days is the festival’s relocation to Marantette Park.

“The popularity of the Heritage Days allowed the festival to expand and showcase the town’s great green spaces and trails that make living in Columbia Falls so special,” Schnebel said.

There will be a shuttle on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. driving festivalgoers from the Senior Center on Nucleus Avenue to Marantette Park.

“The essence of Heritage Days is really unique,” Schnebel said. “The festival is truly centered around community.”

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