Visiting Season

By Molly Priddy

It’s funny how your perspectives can change based on the seasons.

In the summertime in the Flathead, visitors are welcomed and necessary for our economy, but the visiting season begins to wear on the locals (especially those of us putting up family and friends in our houses as they explore the wonders we live in up here).

Enter fall, with its color changes and emptier highways, the shoulder season locals have taken back for themselves before the rush of those chasing the stoke on our valley’s ski hills. By the time winter gets here, the Flathead is a monochromatic-gray version of its summertime self, and suddenly those colorful visitors are a breath of fresh air.

Here at the Beacon offices, we have several regular visitors who tend to brighten up the workday, usually because they’re begging for snacks (and no, I don’t mean other journalists or our interns). Beacon office dogs have become a staple in our environment here, their four- and sometimes three-legged adventures enthralling even the most hardened types.

There’s Samson, an energetic red heeler with a penchant for chasing anything, and Ruby, a gorgeous black-and-white setter who is still learning how to be comfortable around people. We’ve also got my dog Huck, a chihuahu mix who patters around on three legs and usually in a sweater, and then Mowgli, a puppy Bernese mountain dog who has claimed the hearts and minds of everyone who gets a floppy lean and kiss.

These canine agents of light tend to keep the mood elevated, and I can’t tell you how much it helps writer’s block to be able to get on the floor with a puppy.

But the holidays are also my favorite time of year at work because every first Friday in December, we open our office doors to the public for the Downtown Kalispell Art Walk and Holiday Stroll. People stream in the doors all night as live music and free beer flow; kids and families and friends take pictures in the photo booth, and the food fuels a party that lasts late into the evening, and often into the next day.

Of course I appreciate a good party, especially one thrown by my coworkers. But what I really love about the Art Walk evening is meeting so many members of the community who I either write about or around or near, people who read our stories and pick up our paper and want to stop by to chat about anything and everything.

The connections we make there, with these visitors, inform us as a company and as community members. Shaking hands and trading pleasantries before diving into a deep discussion feels so much more natural than trying to type it out in a comment section or elsewhere online. The real-world interactions make me appreciate this community from the inside out, because meeting and talking to you, whether or not I’m on assignment, is the best part of my job.

Why do I enjoy it so much when I talk to people all day? Because I was once the visitor here in this valley, moving up after graduate school in 2009 to a place I’d only driven through, growing up in Missoula. Moving to a new place is hard, but this job immediately connected me to the people here, learning their stories of happiness and strife and what’s important to them.

Soon, those aspects of living here they cherished also became important to me: Neighbors being neighbors, people trying to work together, and kindness rarely taken for granted.

It’s in this spirit that I hope you stopped by the Beacon for our Dec. 2 party. But don’t worry – if you missed it, stop by some other time.

Visitors are always welcome. 

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