Kootenai Harvest Festival Embraces Autumn

Montana Wilderness Association and Libby Community Garden celebrate local food and healthy lifestyles

By Tristan Scott
April Rainey, pictured at the Kootenai Harvest Festival. Courtesy Photo

It’s been a sultry end to Montana’s summer season, but despite the state’s wildfires, there’s plenty to celebrate with the coming of fall, and the Montana Wilderness Association is helping the region embrace autumn’s arrival with its upcoming Kootenai Harvest Festival in Libby.

In partnership with the Libby Area Community Garden, the nonprofit Montana Wilderness Association is hosting its third-annual Kootenai Harvest Festival as a fundraising event, featuring locally harvested and prepared food, live music, demonstrations, and shopping at a variety of food and craft vendors.

The event is free and open to all ages, and will take place at Riverfront Park in Libby on Saturday, Sept. 16.

The Montana Wilderness Association has worked on conservation projects throughout the region, including the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project alliance to protect key wildlife habitat and sensitive areas in the Swan Mountains bordering the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and is funded by its nearly 4,000 fee-paying membership households, as well as a variety of grants.

In its fifth year of operation, the Libby Area Community Garden is a grassroots project started by manager Linda Alkire and located at the former Asa Wood Elementary School. With the help of more than 70 garden members, Alkire has added new features like artwork and sculptures to the gardens, as well as enriching the soil to grow more produce. One of the plots is dedicated to the Kootenai Harvest Festival, and its bounty of produce will be served at the event.

Alkire said the garden is growing as fast as its membership, and is a boon to a community that has grappled with an economic downturn and the stigma attached to its listing as a Superfund site.

“I started this garden with hopes of reconnecting our community with something positive so people would begin to come together and regain their sense of community and begin to heal,” Alkire said. “We are growing more than tomatoes. We are growing community.”

At the Sept. 16 event, festival-goers will have occasion to dance to live music, play kid-friendly games, eat locally grown food, and shop with more than 30 Northwest Montana food and crafts vendors. Kids’ activities include a tug-o-war contest, a tipi to play in, a playground, water balloon fights, a candy scavenger hunt, free dance lessons, face painting, and more.

The locally grown dinner prepared by the Gracious Table includes pulled pork sandwiches or harvest squash soup with a choice of side and cobbler for dessert.

Dinner costs $10 per plate. All vegetables used in the dinner have been grown at the Libby Area Community Garden, and all other ingredients in the meal are locally sourced. Beer will be provided by Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company, and raffle prizes have been donated by Ace Hardware and Homesteaders Ranch and Feed.

For more event information visit www.wildmontana.org/harvestfest.

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