Bitterroot Star Publishers Victoria & Michael Howell & Staff
We would like to publicly thank the Stevensville Town Council, the Fire, Police and Public Works Departments, and the Mayor, for their help in making Stevensville’s Western Heritage Days possibly the best ever.
This event, which is over 30 years old, was established to bring folks to our downtown and show them what a great community Stevensville is. Visitors and locals alike got to eat great food, enjoy the expanded farmers market, sample the chuck wagon meals and see native dancing and drumming at historic St. Mary’s Mission, shop in our stores and linger over a cool beverage and great music on the street. Stevensville’s businesses benefitted hugely from this, and we were able to partner with the 50 Mile Garage Sale this year to bring even more people to our town.
But Stevensville Western Heritage Days almost didn’t happen this year. After 17 years of hosting the event, the Main Street Association dumped it, and so the Bitterroot Star picked it up and made sure it happened. The Main Street Association had been circulating the idea that the businesses didn’t want it but we knew that couldn’t possibly be true.
In fact, we took in more than $16,000 in sponsorship dollars from our local businesses, and had dozens of raffle prizes donated, as well as in-kind contributions. Even pared down to just a one-day event, the beer garden brought in almost $3,000, the vendor fair and the chuck wagon meals over $2000 each. The event was so successful that we will be able to make a substantial financial contribution to the School Kids Backpack Program at Stevensville and Lone Rock, where hungry kids discreetly receive backpacks full of food to take home for the weekends.
And all this was done with a group of volunteers who divided up the workload so no one was overworked or overwhelmed.
And then we were able to top it off with an amazing fireworks display, fully sponsored by three local businesses. The fireworks display was publicized on the radio, in the newspapers, on posters and flyers and on social media.
The fireworks event happened with full approval of the town council, the fire chief, the adjacent building and parking lot owner, and was fully insured and properly handled in every way. Town police officers were on hand to ensure the safety of the crowd. And we even cleaned up the debris from the fireworks ourselves (and we have a video to prove it) although we couldn’t get to it until Monday evening because we had a newspaper to put out!
We have received so many positive comments about all aspects of the events, including the fireworks, which drew the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of the large crowd that watched from E. 3rd after the dance. Business owners have told us they had spectacular results that day. We were told by the owners of the Stevensville Hotel – which was fully booked and had to turn people away – that their guests said they absolutely loved the fireworks. What a way to top off a perfect day in Stevensville and kick off a great summer! Those positive comments really mean a lot to our volunteers and to the Bitterroot Star.
The accolades we’ve received for Stevensville Western Heritage Days far outweigh the very few criticisms. But the bottom line is, you just can’t please everyone. Apparently the Main Street Association received some negative comments about the fireworks, and we got one complaint about the fireworks debris. As founding members of the Main Street Association, we believe it’s essential that the Association and its representatives spend time talking to ALL the downtown business owners. The majority of their comments were positive and that’s what should be shared, not a couple of complaints from, well, who was that again?
Again, thank you to everyone for the various parts they played in this year’s Stevensville Western Heritage Days, whether it be stepping up to chair the committee, as Bob Cumming did, investing financially as a business sponsor (which 23 local businesses did!), providing in-kind services, donating to the food drive, volunteering to help organize and put on the many activities, or just attending!
We truly appreciate everything that all of you did. And we are so proud to be part of this community.
Editor’s Note: This is a slightly revised version of a letter that was presented to the Stevensville Town Council on July 11th.