By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BIG SKY – The Big Sky Country Fair reported growth and success this year, despite a major afternoon rainstorm and competition from other big regional events held on the same day.
Organized by Robin Brower-McBride from the Chamber of Commerce, the fair included new activities and entertainment like a growing artists gallery featuring art from local students, a live glass blower, an 18-foot tall water slide, a mural artist, wood carver, birds of prey and a high-heeled race.
As usual, there were as many people actually in the parade as there were viewers, which gave the kids watching a great chance at catching candy.
Local band Bluebird Sky led the morning parade, playing music and riding on a wagon pulled by a team of horses from Lone Mountain Ranch. Longtime participants Gallatin Canyon Women’s Club rode in the stagecoach from Moonlight Basin’s Cedar Mountain Corral.
First time parade participants included Big Brothers Big Sisters pulling a sailboat, Lone Peak Cinema with a giant box of “popcorn” made of yellow and white balloons, and Pretty Paws dog groomers with a neon green doghouse, a pink bathtub and a human in a dog costume.
Other longtime participants included Morningstar Learning Center pulling a wagonload of kids, Jakes Horses, Big Sky Western Bank and Three Rivers Communications with its purple 1953 Ford pickup.
Once the parade reached the Town Center at about 11, the fair commenced.
Vendor Michelle Melehes drove up from Jackson, Wyo. Melehes has been touring the West with her wares from Way Cool Clothing for 22 years, and this was her first time at the Big Sky event.
“I try to find events that have an appeal for scenic beauty that are fun and different, and I try not to go more than six hours from my home in Jackson,” Melehes said. “This one sounded fun because of the high heeled race. I was like, ‘this has to be fun’.
Melehes’ makes casual wear, bags and accessories with hand woven, recycled Guatemalan fabrics. Coming to Big Sky was worth it, she said.
“I did really well. First of all, the drive from Jackson was insanely beautiful, so it started off great. Big Sky is kind of tranquil, especially compared to Jackson Hole in the summer, so it has this nice calm feel about it. It was easy to be there—it wasn’t over produced or under produced, as far as dealing with the organizers.”
Melehes also complimented the live bands and said the other vendors were friendly. “The day was short and sweet.”
Lone Peak High School quarterback Tucker Shea won the high-heeled race by a landslide, sporting black socks and some very high heels. The race doubled as a fundraiser for two Bozeman nonprofits, Friends of Hyalite and Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.
The dunk tank, run by the Big Sky Community Corp., was also a big hit, said BSCC executive director Jessie Neal. Katie Coleman from Camp Big Sky, Al Malinowski from the post office, Brandon Bang from Big Sky Resort, Joe Miller from First Security Bank, and School Superintendent Jerry House all went in the drink, raising $250 for BSCC.
The Ophir/Lone Peak Booster Club helped out with the car/RV/bike wash, splitting the proceeds with the Chamber.
The Rapier Family Foundation, run by Big Sky second homeowners Kym and George Rapier, used the Country Fair as a starting point to donate another $50,000 divvied up between the four nonprofits and the Chamber.
When the sky turned dark at around 3 p.m. it brought with it rain and wet hail, driving fairgoers away. Many others continued dancing under the eaves of Montana Chiropractic, China Café, and the Lotus Pad tent, said Brower-McBride. “It was full on Big Sky weather.”
The Deadlocks, one of four bands at the event, ended up playing until 6 p.m. anyway, and at least 50 people stayed on to watch renditions of ‘Oh, the Wind and Rain’ and other appropriate Grateful Dead songs.