It’s Summertime in Montana


If summer hadn’t officially arrived last weekend, it certainly has by now, looking at the thermometer.  And while we all would like some rain to help with the fire danger, at the same time we all admit that summer is why we love Montana.  Along with backpacking, fishing, rafting, biking and marathon-ing, summer is also the time for outdoor concerts and festivals.

Whether one wants to stay home and see what the downtown brings, or if a road trip is being planned, there are arts events for all tastes – country, blues, jazz, roots, classical, Celtic, rock.  There are also pow-wows, summer concert series, outdoor theatre, plein-air painting – the list goes on.  There is simply no reason to stay indoors and be bored.

It’s all a bit daunting: the Montana Folk Festival in Butte, Riverfront Blues Festival in Libby, Crown Guitar Festival in Bigfork, the Last Best Country Fest in Billings, Red Ants Pants in White Sulfur Springs, the Montana Baroque Music Festival at Quinn’s Hot springs, Festival Amadeus in Whitefish, the Arlee Powwow, Rockin’ the Rivers in Three Forks, Summerfest in Livingston, Sweat Pea in Bozeman, just to name a few.  St. Timothy’s Summer Music Festival at Georgetown Lake is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Photo by ©Tony Demin

Photo by ©Tony Demin

Even if you missed Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss at Ogren Park Allegiance Field last week (as I did), the summer has just started, and there is a constant flow of entertainment with Out to Lunch in Caras Park and City Band concerts in Bonner Park on Wednesdays, and  Downtown Tonight on Thursdays.  Coming up soon is the River City Rod Run and Summer MADE Fair, Gregg Allman at Big Sky Brewing, and Montana Rep’s Missoula Colony on the UM campus.  Later on in the summer we have Celtic Festival Missoula, River City Roots Fest, and the Snowbowl Mountain Music Series just outside of town.

How does one keep all this straight?  Fortunately there are the folks at Lively Times, who dedicate their working days to organize, promote and educate us on arts and entertainment in our region.  According to their newly remodeled website, Lively Times was created in 1993 by Susan Bearse and Kristi Niemeyer “as a way of finding out what was happening beyond our hometown of Charlo. Since (we) had spent many years in the weekly newspaper business, we decided to build our own paper and forge our own business. We launched the online version in 2001, with its newest iteration appearing in 2015.”  In a little over 20 years they have grown to 12 staff members, and a circulation that reaches from Spokane to eastern Montana.  And now they have a new website to better serve people such as me, who would otherwise have a tough time processing all this information and opportunity.

Lively Times also publishes State of the Arts, the official newspaper of the Montana Arts Council designed to provide timely information about the arts in Montana to artists and organizations.

So rather than continuing to list all the arts festivals this summer, I urge everyone to visit the new website, or pick up a free copy of the monthly publication.  Lively Times is just another reason why we love Montana!




Tom Bensen

Tom Bensen has lived in Missoula since 1986, and has been the executive director of the Missoula Cultural Council since June 2004. He has directed First Night Missoula each New Year’s Eve since 1997.   He is a member of Missoula’s choral ensemble Dolce Canto, and enjoys being outdoors, whether it is hiking, biking, skiing, walking the dogs, or mowing the lawn.  His wife Susan works for Montana Public Radio, and their son Peter attends Hellgate High School.