Circling the Wagons at Western Heritage Days in Stevensville

By DONNA HULL

Donna Hull Western Heritage Days Stevensivlle MT

Have you ever wondered what eating on the trail was like during pioneer times when wagon trains headed across the West? You’ll find out this weekend at Western Heritage Days in Stevensville, one of my favorite summer events in the Bitterroot Valley.

The Conestoga wagons roll into town on Friday, June 21, 2013, for a chuck wagon dinner cook-off. The fun doesn’t end until the band stops playing at 10:00 p.m. during Saturday night’s (June 22) street dance. And in between, you’ll discover all sorts of fun as Montana’s oldest community celebrates 127 years.

Donna Hull - Western Heritage Days Stevensville MT

Shoppers will want to snag the best bargains at the rummage sale by arriving early (sale begins at 8:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday). There’s also a 2-day sidewalk sale by area merchants as well as fresh goodies at the farmers market (8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday).

Donna Hull Western Heritage Days Stevensville MT

I’ll be staking my space on the sidewalk somewhere on Main Street Saturday morning to wait for the parade to begin. At 11:00 a.m., a long procession of antique cars, tractors, fire trucks, horse riders and floats will make their way down Main Street delighting the crowd. Watch out for the candy that parade participants throw out to the children.

Donna Hull Western Heritage Days Stevensville MT

After the parade, let’s head over to the corner of 5th and Main Street for the Chuck Wagon Dinner (begins at 12:30 p.m.). It’s fun to wander around the restored Conestoga wagons watching authentically dressed cooks prepare your meal over the campfire. A $10 ticket let’s you eat like a pioneer.

Later, walk off lunch on a visit to St. Mary’s Mission where the first community in Montana took root. At the request of the Salish people, Father Pierre Jean deSmet arrived with Fathers Gregory Mengarini and Nicholas Point to minister to the tribe. But it was Father Anthony Ravalli, a physician, pharmacist, surgeon, architect, and all-around Renaissance man who developed the community.

Donna Hull Western Heritage Days Stevensville MT

In the afternoon (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.), Salish drummers and dancers will perform accompanied by a historical narration on the Forest Service Lawn at the Stevensville Ranger District Office.

Don’t leave the kids at home. The Bitterroot Model Railroaders will be running trains in the basement of the Valley Drug Building. And of course there will be pony rides and a stick pony rodeo.

Wait! The day isn’t over yet. There’s dinner at the food court, a visit to the beer garden and dancing in the street to the music of Sho Down. You’ll find the action at 3rd Street and Main. See you there! I’ll be the one sorely in need of line dancing lessons.

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Donna L. Hull writes about active travel for baby boomers at My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel. She is also the author of My Itchy Travel Feet, Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas, available at Amazon Kindle, Nook and iTunes.  See all of Donna Hull’sblogs.

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