Columbia Falls Community Market Secures New Location for 2024 Season

The market will begin May 16 at 165 Veteran Drive in Columbia Falls; market organizers are seeking volunteers, sponsors and partners while vendor applications are currently being accepted

By Maggie Dresser
Columbia Falls Community Market on July 2, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Columbia Falls Community Market (CFCM) board of directors has secured a new location at a Boys & Girls Club of Glacier Country property at 165 Veteran Drive for the 2024 season after a dispute last summer between the organizers and the property owner of the former location left the market’s future in limbo.

Starting on Thursday, May 16 and running through Sept. 26 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the market season will kick off with the same mission as past years with local farmers, artists, crafts-people and other vendors, with live music and a bar that will sell beer, wine and spirts.

The market will also continue supporting Flathead Valley’s businesses and nonprofits and Executive Director Melissa Ellis says they are looking for volunteers, market sponsors and partners ahead of the 2024 season. Applications for vendors are also open and organizers are looking for solo, duo and trio musical acts.

Located at the Boys & Girls Club, the market’s rent will go directly toward the nonprofit, which provides a safe place for youth to participate in after-school programs.

Ellis said she has received a steady stream of questions from community members asking what’s going on with the market this summer and whether alcohol will be allowed like it was at its previous O’Brien’s Liquor and Wine location and the adjacent building known as the Coop.

“We just really need the public to understand that it’s going to be a market just like 2022,” Ellis said. “The public is really concerned about the location, and they are very concerned about the alcohol.”

Ever since the market’s inception in 2015, the weekly event on Thursdays at O’Brien’s Liquor on First Avenue West has attracted thousands of Flathead Valley residents and tourists at the Gateway to Glacier with concerts featuring local musicians along with farmers, producers and artists.

But last May, a dispute between 830 First Ave. W. property owner O’Brien Byrd, who created the market along with his wife and operated it for five years, and market leaders over a lease agreement forced the abrupt, temporary cancellation of the event.

Following the disagreement, market organizers filed a lawsuit accusing Byrd and his real estate entities of breaching their contract. The plaintiff’s attorney filed an application for a preliminary injunction, which Flathead County District Court Judge Robert B. Allison granted, allowing the market to continue for the remainder of the season.

Byrd, in turn, filed a counterclaim against the Columbia Falls Community Market describing a situation in which market organizers breached the terms of their contract, interfered with other businesses operating on the property and made unsupported financial demands.

A jury trial has been scheduled for Feb. 17, 2025.

To submit a vendor application, visit www.cfcommunitymarket.com.

Anyone interested in providing live entertainment, volunteering, or sponsoring or partnering with the CFCM, contact Melissa Ellis at [email protected].

The community market will run every Thursday, May 16 through Sept. 26 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 165 Veterans Drive in Columbia Falls.

[email protected]

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incomplete account of the ongoing legal dispute between organizers of the Columbia Falls Community Market and the owners of the property on which the market formerly operated. Because our initial reporting omitted legal pleadings that would have provided a fuller picture of what is alleged to have occurred, the Beacon has retracted those details. However, the pleadings are linked in the body of the story above.