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New park, same traditions

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Patrons of the Music in the Mountains concert series test out the new Len Hill Park turf during it’s inaugural show on the new park lawn. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

Music in the Mountains returns home to the new Len Hill Park

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Blankets and chairs lay a patchwork across the new lawn at the Len Hill Park in Big Sky Town Center on the Thursday night of July 15 for Music in the Mountains. Sneaky Pete and the Secret Weapons, the Jackson-based funk rock band, warmed the audience under hazy skies. The free concert series, put on by the Arts Council of Big Sky, is nothing new, being in its 13th year, but the setting recently got a facelift.

“This is the first band we’re having in our newly-created green space here, so we’re super excited to have them back in Big Sky,” said the Arts Council’s Executive Director, Brian Hurlbut. “Let’s give it up for—all the way from Jackson Hole, Wyoming—Sneaky Pete and the Secret Weapons.”

It wasn’t long before dancers were testing out the new graveled area in front of the stage and families were arriving with baskets of food, libations and a hunger for live music. As the sun set, the crowd grew, grabbing food from one of the many curbside food trucks and rejoining their friends and family on the lawn.

Len Hill Park was procured by the Big Sky Community Organization in 2018 with the financial support of the Len Hill Charitable Trust, for which it is named, and in-kind support of the Simkins family and 15 additional donors. Len Hill cared deeply for Big Sky, says Whitney Montgomery, CEO of BSCO, learned that the space was slated for condominiums and felt that it was worth saving. This passion, alongside the collaboration that organizations like BSCO witness in their day-to-day work to preserve the area’s gems are what sets Big Sky apart from other communities.

The 3.3 acre park is a bit snugger than the previous venue, that didn’t seem to stop dancers and spectators of all ages at its inaugural concert. In fact, it almost made things more intimate, with patrons waving hello at neighbors upon returning to their blanket, and drawing Town Center-goers to the revelry from across the street. According to Montgomery, once the hockey rink is completed, additional space will open up for more food trucks and lawn chairs.

Montgomery mentioned one of the park’s key features for premium music-watching—the hill that they built up along the back flank to provide better viewpoints during the concert.

At the show, Hurlbut thanked the concert series’ sponsors: Big Sky Resort, Bozeman Health, the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation and Big Sky Resort Area Tax District, and noted that the week of Aug. 5, Bozeman Health would have their mobile screening bus and COVID-19 vaccines available to attendees. Hurlbut thanked BSCO and spoke with excitement of the forthcoming BASE Community Center, in which the Arts Council will soon have new offices as well as a classroom for their art programs.

“The parks and trails are a huge part of the DNA of this town and with the pressures that are growing … the protection of green space, parks and trails – it’s immediate upon us to move quickly,” said Montgomery. “I think many of the townspeople and also I think many of the developers in town appreciate the need to preserve the green space and the need for the trails to grow.”

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