COOKE CITY – On a typical Friday afternoon in Cooke City, snowmobilers return from the trails, some with skiers and snowboarders in tow. Others are rolling in from Livingston or Bozeman, or as far away as Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Michigan. As dusk falls, folks roll into the Miner’s Saloon for dinner, rounds of pool and live music.
On March 8, they’ll be dancing to Cooke’s local band, the Bannock Trailers, to kick off the 17th annual Cooke City Hog Roast.
The event, which rolls over to Saturday night’s dinner and live auction at the Antlers Lodge, began as a fundraiser for Search and Rescue, the Fire Department and EMS; now, all proceeds go to help cover costs of grooming the area’s 68 miles of snowmobile trails.
“Everybody’s there for the one cause, and that’s to raise money for Cooke City,” said festival organizer Matt Asplund. “All the money stays in Cooke City, it doesn’t go anywhere else.”
Asplund, a contractor, moved to Cooke 13 years ago. When the event first started, he and his twin brother drove every year from Minnesota for it. In fact, for several years they even brought the pig out with them.
With around 160 attendees, the live auction raises $12,000-14,000 for trail grooming and upkeep of the club’s machine. The rest of its $35,000 annual budget comes from the state; however, Cooke does not have state-owned groomers like West Yellowstone, Asplund pointed out.
Everybody benefits from snowmobile tourism, Asplund said, noting that skiers and snowboarders also use the trails, and it supports the town’s business through the winter.