The Stevensville Creamery Picnic, one of the valley’s oldest and biggest festivals, is scheduled to take place this year on August 6th & 7th. The executive board of the Stevensville Civic Club, which hosts the picnic, has been working on the details of this major event after it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. This will be the 108th annual picnic in 110 years. It has only been cancelled twice since it first began, once during World War I and once for the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Creamery Picnic is the oldest annual community celebration in Montana. The first Creamery Picnic was in 1911 after a fire devastated the Bitterroot Cooperative Creamery on June 20th of that year. The creamery, under the management of John Howe, was a major economic driver of Stevensville and the fire threatened the community’s economic base, according to “Montana Genesis,” a history of Stevensville. The creamery provided employment for quite a number of people and it was an important market for farmers raising dairy cattle and depending on a monthly “milk check.”
Howe put out the word that if his crew and volunteers from the community could rebuild the creamery by August 1st of that year, he would throw the biggest picnic Stevensville had ever seen – complete with free butter, buttermilk and ice cream. The job was done on time and the Creamery Picnic started its legendary trek through the following 100-year-plus history of the town.
The Creamery Picnic has been held at Lewis & Clark Park for many years, but many locals remember when it was held on Main Street and some have been vocal about wanting it back there again. Two years ago, in 2019, an effort was made to bring some events back to Main Street and this year there will once again be some activity on Main.
According to Liz Cook, Civic Club president, this year the board decided not to hold a Garden Party, an event that honors Stevensville’s special citizens for what they accomplished in the past year. “Instead, because the pandemic put many activities on hold, the Creamery Picnic will serve as a general ‘congratulations’ to everyone for persevering through a long, tough year,” said Cook. The club is also putting the bulk of its energy into raising money to build a splash pad at Lewis & Clark Park. The splash pad is projected to be completed later this year. The theme of this year’s picnic is “Stevensville’s Making a Splash!”
The Creamery Picnic will begin on Friday at 4 p.m. at the park with an arts and craft market, kids’ bouncy houses, and live music. The beer & wine garden will be open until 10 p.m. The Kiddie Parade takes place at 6:30 p.m. with Montana Bob’s parking lot at Main & Ravalli Streets as the starting point and the park as the ending point. Kids can win ribbons and prizes and free ice cream will be served to all the participants.
Saturday kicks off with the annual pancake breakfast at the Masonic Lodge on 3rd & Church starting at 7 a.m. The Grand Parade is at 11 a.m. After the parade, the block of Main Street between 2nd & 3rd Streets will remain closed for the rest of the day. Later on, there will be live music and firefighters’ games in that area.
After the parade, free ice cream will be served at Lewis & Clark Park until gone. All of Friday’s events will continue, with the addition of free pony rides for the kids, and the wildly popular greased pig races in the afternoon.
Tickets for the Pot of Gold raffle will be on sale throughout the event, and on Saturday evening, some lucky person will win $2021 in cash!
Information about parade entries and about food and arts & crafts vendors can be found online at www.creamerypicnic.com. For more information about the Civic Club contact Liz Cook, President, at 880-2007 or 777-3928.