2019 Giving Back Issue: An Opportunity for Community

After living in big cities, Dave Vale has been heavily involved in Bigfork’s small community since he retired here 10 years ago

By Maggie Dresser
David Vale, owner of the Pocketstone Cafe in Bigfork, as seen at his business on Dec. 11, 2019. Vale annually organizes a free community Thanksgiving dinner at his cafe. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Every Thanksgiving for nearly a decade, the Pocketstone Café in Bigfork has filled with locals, 10 turkeys and 100 pounds of potatoes.

All 200 or so guests and volunteers eat for free.

Pocketstone owner and Bigfork resident Dave Vale hosts the free Thanksgiving dinner annually at his restaurant in an effort to bring the community together.

“It’s something people have fun at and they get a good meal,” Vale said.

While Vale foots the roughly $1,000 bill every year, he accepts voluntary donations, which he gives to the Bigfork Food Bank. He wrote a check for $3,000 following this year’s holiday event.

Vale says there are kinks to work out every year to feed so many people, but the staff and volunteers always get dinner on the table. This year, the potatoes didn’t come out on time, but he says nobody seemed to mind. He even sang “My Wild Irish Rose” to the guests while they waited.

An active member of the Bigfork Community Players, Vale didn’t get into theater and singing until he retired and moved to Bigfork 10 years ago.

“That’s the thing about retirement, you get to try something you haven’t done before,” Vale said.

Vale was voted onto the Bigfork Community Players board of directors with no experience, but he soon began writing and directing his own plays. Since then, he’s directed several of them. He even wrote his own play called Naked Bigport, a story about an imaginary town in Northwest Montana.

“Nobody is naked and nothing is real; it’s fake news at its finest,” he said.

Vale says he originally called the play Naked Bigfork and based some of his characters off of real people, but he says he altered the play to create a fictitious place instead. He drew inspiration for the play after serving as on the board of directors for the Bigfork Chamber of Commerce. He plans to hold auditions in January and schedule the performance at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts at the end of February.

Vale moved to Bigfork with his wife, Carolyn, after a career as a psychometrician in larger cities.

“That’s a person who makes tests for a living,” he said.

He mostly created insurance licensing tests, but he also dabbled in real estate licensing with his company in Minnesota. He later sold the company to an educational testing service in Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived for five years before retiring and moving to Bigfork. Vale describes Princeton as “somewhere that everyone is richer and smarter than I am.”

Vale loves the calm, comfortable lifestyle in Bigfork and says it’s easy to be active in the community.

“Because it’s such a small town, it’s a lot easier to get involved in things,” Vale said.

If he wanted to be in theater in New Jersey, he would have had to compete with New York actors who were in between gigs, he said.

“Here, I get the opportunity that I never would have gotten in Princeton,” he said. “I get to direct plays. I get to write plays. I get to act in plays.”

Vale’s play, Naked Bigport, will be at the Bigfork Center for Performing Arts from Friday, Feb. 21 to Sunday, Feb. 23.


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