Christmas, Holiday Parades and Events Get Rolling in the Flathead with December’s Arrival

Festive lights, live music, hot drinks, and Santa Claus will feature prominently in a slate of events that begins Dec. 1

By Mike Kordenbrock
A fire crackles on Central Avenue during the annual Christmas Stroll in downtown Whitefish on Dec. 6, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

December, and the holiday season in the Flathead, kicks off Friday evening with events in Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Polson. The festivities will continue Saturday with a parade in Bigfork and carry into next week when, on Friday, Dec. 8, the Whitefish Christmas Stroll and the Lakeside Christmas Tree Lighting events will take place.

In Kalispell, the Kalispell Downtown Association is inviting people to come out Dec. 1 to its Holiday Stroll, which includes the lighting of the community tree at Depot Park, and the singing of Christmas Carols led by Lucy Smith and the Valley Voices.

The stroll will go from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. and attendees are encouraged to scan QR codes on walking cards and event posters to vote for their favorite “dressed” storefront, which can earn the winners a $500 cash prize.

Special deals, snacks, drinks, and music — including carolers and the Trinity Hand Bell Ringers — will all be part of the festivities in which 45 downtown businesses are participating. Mann Mortgage will host its Christmas Tree Extravaganza on the second floor of the KM Building, and Johnson Funeral Home will have live reindeer, cookies, hot cocoa, and a station for writing letters to Santa.

A crowd gathers to watch turkey bowling on Central Avenue during the annual Christmas Stroll in downtown Whitefish on Dec. 6, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The tree lighting at Depot Park is scheduled for 7 p.m., and will include coffee, hot cocoa, cookies and a visit from “Santa and Mrs. Claus” to light the tree.

In Columbia Falls, the Columbia Falls Lions Club is organizing the Night of Lights Parade. The Dec. 1 parade has a “Polar Express” theme, and the $20 registration cost per entry will go toward the Columbia Falls Food Bank.

Floats should line up at 5 p.m., and judging will start at 5:15 p.m. before the parade gets rolling at 6 p.m. Over at The Coop, doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free, for additional festivities, including Christmas Carols by the Sonifers of Columbia Falls High School, free photos with Santa and Mr. Claus, food trucks with hot food, drinks and desserts, and beer, wine and cocktail specials.

In Polson, the Most Wonderful Time of Year Parade of Lights lineup will meet Dec. 1 at Cherry Valley Elementary School starting at 5 p.m., for a prompt 6 p.m. start to the parade. Parade participants will be awarded prizes for best of parade, most humorous, best lights and most creative. The festivities will include food vendors, late-night shopping and an appearance from Santa Claus.

On Saturday, Dec. 2, Bigfork will have its Parade of Lights with the theme, “A Totally Awesome 80s Christmas.” The parade will start at 6 p.m., and will end with the arrival “of Santa Claus himself,” according to the Bigfork Chamber of Commerce. Strings of lights and garlands will be draped and hung throughout the streets and downtown stores will be decorated for the occasion and open late. After the parade, the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts will offer kids a chance to share their Christmas wishes and take photos with Santa, before a 7:30 p.m. performance of “A Touch of Christmas,” by the Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre.

On Friday, Dec. 8, the Whitefish Christmas Stroll starts at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Whitefish. The full lineup of events includes a pre-stroll music at First Presbyterian Church. Starting at 5 p.m. there will be a hand bell choir concert from the Alpine Bell Ringers, harp music and the North Valley Music School Christmas Recital. The music continues at 6 p.m. outside the O’Shaughnessy Center with the Flathead Valley Community College Vocal Jazz and Chorale Ensemble.

A fire dancer performs with the fire-dancing troupe Whitefire during the annual Christmas Stroll in downtown Whitefish on Dec. 6, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A tree lighting ceremony with the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce and Stockman Bank is planned for 6:20 p.m. outside the O’Shaughnessy Center, and Santa is expected to arrive by about 6:30 p.m. on a wagon courtesy of the Bar W Guest Ranch. Santa will then be led down Central Avenue to Huck’s Place by a troupe of Alpine Theatre Project elves and people will have a chance to take selfies with Santa.

At 7:45 p.m., the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce will announce the winners of its Christmas shoppers’ drawing.

Bar W Guest Ranch will be offering wagon rides throughout the evening, fire pits will be set up along Central Avenue, Stumptown Art Studio will have supplies to make ornaments, Feat by Feet will be tap dancing outside the Bull Dog Saloon, Buddy the Elf will be at Blackstar, Compass Chiropractic will be doing s’more roasting, and a “gentle giant” from Clydesdale Outpost will be present.

A full schedule of events and activities can be found at whitefishchamber.org.