By Matt Hudson Explore Big Sky Editorial Assistant
Deep in the Gallatin Canyon exists a weekly barbeque bash with a casual atmosphere and the endorsement of at least one southerner.
Every Monday evening, the 320 Guest Ranch hosts an all-you-can-eat pig roast on the deck and lawn in front of its saloon. The event began six years ago, right around the time John Richardson started as general manager. He said it was created to give more people from the surrounding area a chance to come out and enjoy the ranch.
“It’s turned into a really fun community event,” Richardson said.
On Monday, July 15, all 60 of the ranch’s guest cabins were rented out. Barbeque enthusiasts arrived from nearby Big Sky and West Yellowstone and quickly formed a line along the buffet table, which was laden with coleslaw, cookies, cowboy beans and of course, pulled pork. Around 350 pounds of pork would be served that evening, Richardson said.
“It’s quiet,” said 320 Ranch cook Mike Ayres, who has been roasting pigs for the event for five years. “That’s how you know they like the food.”
From behind the buffet table, Ayres extracted chunks of meat from under the blackened skin of a pig that lay in a giant smoker grill. A man from North Carolina with a heavy accent commended Ayres on the barbeque fare, and his wife asked for a copy of the beans recipe. Another cook, Lee Walker, happily obliged and emerged from the kitchen with a hand-written recipe.
To roast the pig, Ayres lit the coals at 10 p.m. the previous night and put the pig in to smoke an hour later. Eighteen hours later, it was pulled and served.
Across the deck area, a lone guitarist played live music, only taking breaks to sip from a cocktail sitting in a mic-stand cup holder. Richardson moved throughout the area to greet familiar faces and help out the hosts.
There is something about sitting on a wooden bench, with a plate full of pork and beans, a crooning guitar player and the smell of a ranch that makes for an authentic Montana experience. Just around the bend from cell phone service, this event felt casual, straightforward and downright country.
“It’s the atmosphere of it,” Richardson said. “Many of these people come to see friends that they don’t see too often.”
The 320 Guest Ranch is named for the 320 acres on which the ranch sits. The Gallatin River separates the ranch from the highway on one side, and steep hills rise just behind the row of cabins on the opposite side. Originally settled in 1898, it is one of the oldest homestead sites in the region. The original structure is still there and has been integrated into the saloon.
The weekly pig roast will occur every Monday evening, from 5-8 p.m., until Sept. 9. The 320 Guest Ranch is located on Highway 191, 12 miles south of Big Sky and 36 miles north of West Yellowstone.