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Fall 2021: Shoulder Season Event Update

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike across the Flathead Valley, some organizations are canceling events while others forge ahead

By Micah Drew
Ashlee Ethridge competes in the Ladies’ Log-Sawing competition at the 10th annual Great Northwest Oktoberfest at Smith Fields in Whitefish on Sept. 28, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

We’re just a week away from Labor Day and the three-day weekend that serves as the hinge between the hustle and bustle of summer and the cooler, calmer autumn. The weeks of late August and September are usually still full of activities and events, but a recent surge in COVID-19 cases has pulled some listings off the calendar, while other fall standards are making comebacks after last year’s cancellations.  

With changing conditions in mind, here are some of the upcoming fall events in the valley, along with information about ones that have canceled. Check www.FlatheadEvents.net for daily updates on happenings in the valley.

What to Look Forward To:

Aug. 26, Sept. 4, Sept. 11 

Brash Summer Rodeo

Rodeo has been a part of Montana’s culture since the first cowboys arrived over 150 years ago and the tradition is alive and well today. Just last weekend, the PRCA rodeo at the Northwest Montana Fair saw a record crowd for its three days of competition, but those who didn’t get their fill can still get in on the action. 

Every week in Columbia Falls, western Montana’s longest-running open rodeo series takes place at the Blue Moon. The series continues into September, with a full slate of bull riding, team roping, barrel racing, steer riding and more. 

Sept. 23-25 and Sept. 30-Oct. 2

Great Northwest Oktoberfest

After last year’s cancellation, the 11th annual Oktoberfest will take place in Whitefish’s Depot Park with an admission fee of $5. Local residents get in free on Sept. 23, and seniors (60+) get in free on Oct. 2. Show up for German beer, German food, German music, log sawing, keg throwing, chicken dancing and more. 

Of course, no mention of Oktoberfest would be complete without a discussion about steinholding. Whitefish has one of the most competitive competitions in the country, and it serves as a qualifying round for the international Beer Stein Holding Contest, or Masskrugstemmen, in Munich, Germany. 

For a decade, steinholding champions have been crowned at the event, with several going on to compete at the regional and national stage, but one man currently stands above the rest: reigning U.S. Champion Dave Sturzen. Last year, Sturzen bested the U.S. steinholding record of 21 minutes and 17 seconds, and he hopes to compete nationally this fall for a chance to go to Germany. 

For more information, visit www.whitefishoktoberfest.com.

Sept. 10-11

Flathead Celtic Festival

Rob Eberhardy, founder of the Flathead Celtic Festival, pictured at Herron Park in Kalispell on Aug. 31, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead Celtic Festival returns for its fifth celebration in seven years (it was canceled due to fire danger once), and Rob Eberhardy expects it to be a big success this year. The festival typically sees more than 2,500 attendees over its two days and has grown every year. 

The festival celebrates the six Celtic nations — Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Brittany and Cornwall — which share a language family and culture. The festival will include music, food and activities inspired by the various nations. 

Eberhardy said a record number of athletes have signed up to compete in the Highland Games, one of the festival’s highlights. 

The traditional Highland Games includes the sheaf toss, where athletes toss a bundle of burlap-wrapped straw over a raised bar with a pitchfork; weight for height, a similar event using a 56-pound stone instead; the Scottish hammer throw, similar to the modern day track and field competition; and the caber toss, where competitors hoist a long log and attempt to flip it end over end.  

For more information, visit www.flatheadcelticfestival.com.

Nonprofits Cancel Fundraising Events

A series of community organizations pulled the plug on fall fundraising activities in recent weeks, but there are still opportunities to help out. 

The Whitefish Community Foundation (WCF) is in the midst of its annual six-week Great Fish Community Challenge, a campaign to raise money and match donations for local nonprofits. 

This year, the community celebration and Great Fish Fun Run originally scheduled for Sept. 11 has been canceled. In lieu of the celebration in Depot Park, the foundation is broadcasting a live program in collaboration with KGEZ Radio in September where listeners can tune in to hear from 61 local nonprofits about the services they provide for the Flathead Valley. Thousands of dollars in Great Fish Incentive Grants will be awarded throughout the broadcast, as the challenge aims to raise more than $3 million. 

“As more and more local nonprofits are canceling their fundraising events due to COVID concerns, the funds they raise in the Great Fish Community Challenge are going to be critically important for their programs and projects in the coming year,” said WCF president Linda Engh-Grady. 

Last weekend two big nonprofit fundraisers were canceled, the Land Affair put on by the Flathead Land Trust and the Whitefish Trail Hootenany, the biggest annual fundraiser for Whitefish Legacy Partners. 

Individuals wishing to support both nonprofits can do so directly through the Great Fish Community Challenge. Whitefish Legacy Partners is also holding a raffle that includes airline tickets, a season ski pass to Whitefish Mountain Resort and numerous other prizes. 

Also Canceled:

Glacier Symphony’s Fusion event, kicking off a year-long celebration of Maestro John Zoltek’s achievements as Music Director and Conductor for the last 25 years has also been postponed due to COVID concerns. The event is going to be rescheduled for 2022.

The next event for the Glacier Symphony will be the MasterWorks concert on October 30 and 31, featuring music by Brahms and Shostakovich with guest violinist Yevgeny Kutik. To find out more visit glaciersymphony.org.

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