Hungry Moose-sponsored event honors life and legacy of founder
By Michael Somerby ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
BIG SKY – Two years ago, 7-year-old Maeve McRae sent a handmade card to a Big Sky community member in need; Mark Robin, known to the child by the nickname “Marky Moose,” had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, a rare neurodegenerative disease.
Her words were simple and powerful, a true “out of the mouths of babes” moment: “You have Soul Shine. I love you.”
The gesture was rooted in fate. Mark and Jackie Robin renamed their summer concert and carnival event “Big Sky Soul Shine,” a collaboration between the Robins’ Hungry Moose Market and Deli and the Arts Council of Big Sky.
“It was obvious,” Jackie Robin said. “We knew we had to call it that.”
The Robins arrived in Big Sky in 1993 and opened a roadside fruits, vegetables and flowers stand in the summer of 1994, a venture that quickly transformed into a small retail shop. In 1998, the business-savvy couple added a deli into the shop and voila: Big Sky had The Hungry Moose Market and Deli, a business that is today nothing short of a community staple.
It wasn’t luck that propelled this Big Sky success story, but rather a dedication to the customer and the community that became a hallmark of the Moose. Open 365 days a year from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., the Moose became known for its consistency, a defining feature that cascaded down from Mark into every corner of the business.
“Mark was this business, he was always there for the customers, for the community,” Robin said. “There was never a ‘be back in 10’ sign.”
Mark’s mettle extended into the final stages of his fight with ALS. Ten months following his diagnosis, he lost the ability to speak but continued communicating through an eye-gaze computer, often writing poetry and maintaining a blog called “Markymoose in Big Sky.”
This was Mark: relentlessly determined to face the truth of a situation head-on.
In December 2017, Mark Robin passed away from complications related to the disease.
Big Sky Soul Shine is an opportunity for the Robins and all involved with the Moose to give thanks back to the community for loyal patronage of the business and for the unwavering love and support shown to Mark and his family when they needed it most, much like that shown by 7-year-old McRae.
This year’s Big Sky Soul Shine, which kicks off at 5 p.m. on June 20, holds unique significance, celebrating and honoring a trifecta of events; the life and legacy of Mark Robin; the 25th anniversary of the community staple that is The Hungry Moose Market and Deli; and the official transition to the business’s new owners Frank and Kristin Kern.
Featuring music from Americana rock and roll band Futurebirds, along with Big Sky’s own Dammit Lauren and The Well, and featuring a carnival complete with barbecue, face painting, a dunk booth and a cotton candy machine, everything at Big Sky Soul Shine is complimentary and sponsored by The Hungry Moose.
Adding to the event’s significance, Hungry Moose employees—“Moosers” they call themselves—spanning 25 years of operations have been invited to attend this special evening of community spirit.
“We’ve had so many incredible employees over the years and many of them are here in Big Sky with families, careers, businesses,” Robin wrote in a press release. “Mark was a mentor to so many who found their way to Big Sky and to a job at the Moose[MS1] . It will be so nice to celebrate all of the Moosers as well as remember and celebrate Mark.”
While the event is complimentary, attendees are encouraged to make donations to the Big Sky Soul Shine beneficiary, Team Gleason.
Founded by Steve Gleason, a former NFL safety with the New Orleans Saints who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, Team Gleason strives to improve the lives of others bravely battling the daily struggles associated with the disease by providing cutting-edge technology, equipment and adventures, ultimately empowering those individuals and providing space for independence.
“Mark banked his voice and had an eye-gaze computer which allowed him to write and communicate even after he lost his voice,” Robin wrote in the release. “Team Gleason helped us figure all of that out and just supported us along the way. Amazing.”
Join the Robins, the Kerns, 25 years of Moosers and the Big Sky community on June 20 at the Big Sky Town Center Stage Park to show continued support for this historic and fun-filled evening in Big Sky.