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Town Hall panelists talk about the power of connection

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BIG SKY – The sixth installment of the weekly EBS virtual Town Hall featured local business leaders, journalists and community pillars who spoke of reopening, changes in their respective industries and the growing importance of community connection.

This week’s panel included: Ryan Kunz, general manager of Lone Mountain Ranch; Quin McNamara and Andrew Robin of Hungry Moose Market and Deli; Greg Fay, founder of Fay Ranches; Todd Wilkinson of Mountain Journal; and Ciara Wolfe, CEO of the Big Sky Community Organization.

Wolfe touched on the hardships COVID-19 has brought to the nonprofit sector, but also excitedly announced that BASE, the new Big Sky Community Center, set to open in 2021, has begun construction this week.

“It has taken a lot to get to this point,” she said. “You all invested in us and we’re going to make sure to bring that project to fruition.”

McNamara and Robin, who adapted their grocery operations to curbside pickup and delivery after shelter-in-place began, are readying to reopen their doors May 11. They’ve been collaborating with Big Sky Food Bank to ensure that the community, including staff members they unfortunately had to lay off, are fed, and with the Lotus Pad and Camp Big Sky to launch the Big Sky Virtual Kitchen. The virtual kitchen offers weekly live cooking shows—the Hungry Moose will pre-package all ingredients and participants can log onto the Big Sky Virtual Kitchen’s Facebook page for a cooking class from the comfort of their own home.

Kunz, who manages a 100-year-old ranch that he assured the Town Hall audience “isn’t going anywhere,” said the best thing we can do is communicate.

“The term ‘we’re all in this together’ has been thrown around the country, but here in Big Sky I think that really is true,” he said.

Fey, founder of Fey Ranches, a land broker in Big Sky, is another key player in the ranch industry and said he has seen a lot of downturn in his career, but  never thought he’d have to navigate a pandemic. He is noticing a surge in interest in ranch land and emphasized his mission to conserving Montana’s “working land.”

Wilkinson, long-time journalist and founder of the Bozeman-based Mountain Journal spoke of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, or the “cradle of American Conservation,” and encouraged its human inhabitants to remember the fragility of the ecosystem and the risk growing population has on its biodiversity. 

“While we howl let’s remember what unties us,” Wilkinson said. “We all live here for a reason.”

COVID-19 is the pause, he said, wherein GYE residents can be stewards of their unique home and consider what they want to do with the land they moved here to enjoy.

Dialogue of the evening echoed the same mutual theme—that Big Sky has shown, now more than ever, that it is a community connected by its love for the land and the wild things that inhabit it.

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