BIG SKY – When Mike Scholz and Devon White created a new summer event for Big Sky in 1997 they decided it should showcase the creative talents of local chefs. The Big Sky Food Festival was born, drawing 100 people to the first annual event.
Scholz, and his partners David O’Connor and Chuck Schommer at Buck’s T-4 Lodge, has hosted the festival every year since. White, owner at the Corral, continues to be a driving force behind the event, rallying enthusiasm among his regular clientele and consistently occupying the top popularity spot each year.
Today the Big Sky Food Festival draws 1,400 – 1,600 people. Many travelers plan visits to Big Sky around it, and food and wine enthusiasts from across southwest Montana make it a mandatory summer event.
The event is held outside on the lawn at Buck’s, and live music provides a festive backdrop. Most local restaurants participate, as do as representatives from American wineries and local breweries. Each establishment sets up a booth, offering small plates costing $2 – 4. Guests can choose from more than 70 menu items and 40 wines.
Each year, O’Connor says, participating chefs use the opportunity to “have fun with the foods and styles they use every day in their own establishments.”
Previous menus have featured fun twists on traditional fair food like “homemade wild game corn dogs,” “chicken fried Rocky Mountain oysters,” “wild boar barbecue sandwiches,” “ostrich satay” and “antelope ‘White Castle’ burgers.”
There have also been some astoundingly good classic dishes, O’Connor said, naming “grilled bison with wild mushrooms,” “Indian flatbread with curried pheasant” and “lacquered Muscovy duck spring rolls with wasabi-whipped potatoes and sweet red chili.”
This year’s Food Festival is Tuesday, July 17 at Big Sky’s Buck’s T-4 Lodge. The hours are from 5 – 9 p.m. Parking is limited, so carpooling is encouraged.