• Sue Brown holds a piglet. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    TBT: Our most popular stories of 2015 – so far

    We love having fun with Throwback Thursday, especially when we get to show off some of our most popular stories “from the past.”

    This week we’ve got two of your most popular stories so from in 2015.

    Ed Osse works in his shop in Ryegate. Photo by Kelsey Dayton

    Ed Osse works in his shop in Ryegate. Photo by Kelsey Dayton

    First, is our feature on the Woodpecker Men, who throughout the years have “hidden” thousands of homemade woodpeckers along the roadside from Harlowton to Ryegate.

    Here’s some behind-the-scenes info and the full story about the Woodpecker men.

    Pies fill the tables at the Utica Women's Club pie sale. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    Pies fill the tables at the Utica Women’s Club pie sale. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    Next, is our The Last Best Plates series – it’s all about food and eating under the Big Sky. We’ll continue the series through 2015, but have already featured stories about the best pies in Montana and place where piglets and baby goats play.

    You can view the entire series here, along with recipes and slideshows.

    Happy Throwback Thursday! Enjoy!

    Jenna

  • A sign from Ismay's heyday as Joe, Montana, is now another piece of the town's past. Photo by Tom Bauer

    Montana A to Z: I is for Ismay, or Joe?

    Once again, the Missoulian’s A to Z series profiling towns across the state is a must-read story for anyone who loves Big Sky Country.

    • Catch up on the series by starting here

    This time, they’re taking us to Ismay. You’ll learn a lot about the tiny town, how it got its name and about the band of loyal residents who make up the town’s population of 26. And why in the world was it once called Joe, Montana?

    “There’s a family over here,” says Ismay’s first lady, pointing in some direction, “that moved in from South Dakota and has four kids. That’s a population explosion for us.”

    Ismay is Montana’s smallest incorporated city. It has a post office and a church among its handful of homes and otherwise boarded-up or falling-down buildings and vacant lots, but not one bar or grocery store.

    Its lone commercial business – the Ismay Grain Co. – actually gives this tiny prairie town a towering skyline of grain silos.

    “We’re the largest employer,” says Rita Nemitz, who works there with her husband Gene, “and the tallest one, too.”

    • See a slideshow of images for Ismay here
    The money that Ismay earned from publicity surrounding its name change to Joe enabled the small town to build the community center and fire hall and to upgrade its fire truck. Photo by Tom Bauer

    The money that Ismay earned from publicity surrounding its name change to Joe enabled the small town to build the community center and fire hall and to upgrade its fire truck. Photo by Tom Bauer

    Wayne Rieger, then Ismay’s town clerk, was in the bathtub when his phone rang one morning in 1993. On the other end: a Kansas City radio station with an odd request.

    Would Ismay – named, “Brangelina” style, for Isabella and Maybelle Peck, daughters of a railroad division superintendent – consider changing its name to Joe?

    Four-time Super Bowl champion Joe Montana had been traded from the San Francisco 49ers to the Kansas City Chiefs in April 1993. The radio station was after a city in Montana to change its name to “Joe,” put a comma after it, and keep the “Montana” part of its name as part of a publicity stunt.

    The station first contacted similarly tiny Bearcreek east of Red Lodge.

    “They turned them down flat,” Ismay Mayor Gene Nemitz, Rita’s husband, says. “They called me next, but I was busy and didn’t have time to figure out what it was they wanted, so I referred them to the town clerk.”

    The rest, as they say, is history.

    Read the full story here.

  • The Fort Peck Theatre first opened as a movie theater 80 years ago. Photo by Erik Petersen

    Did you know? Fort Peck Theatre edition

    We told you about the wild popularity of Fort Peck’s summer theater in our May/June issue.

    It’s a place that draws thousands of theater-goers each night it shows a play.

    “Always… Patsy Kline” opened on Friday and is the first of five plays this summer.

    Given the past successful seasons, it’s like that thousands of people headed for Fort Peck last night.

    Always...Patsy ClineTucked away in the northeastern corner of Montana, the 1,200-seat theater has been entertaining audiences for 45 years. But lately it’s attracting more and more people to the area hailing from neighboring states and, more frequently, foreign countries.

    But did you know that the Fort Peck Theatre was built in 1934 as a movie house to entertain workers building the Fort Peck Dam?

    Here’s a little more about the theater’s history:

    During the “Dam Days” movies ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It stands as a historic tribute to that era.  However, the theatre continues to remain a vital part of our community for culture and education to our residents and visitors, for today, and hopefully into the future.

     Maintaining the beauty and safety of the theatre building is very important.  To do this, the Fort Peck Theatre Preservation Endowment was established.  All gifts received are held in the Fort Peck Theatre Endowment Fund administered by the Montana Community Foundation, a professional money manager.  Donations are invested to earn interest and capital appreciation, with minimal risk.  The interest earnings received are used to maintain the integrity, beauty, and safety of the There.  Maintaining the building can be costly, but necessary to preserve the history of our area.

    Learn more about the current show here

    Jenna

  • Reader photo favorites: Signs of summer

    When does summer time really begin?

    Is it Memorial Day camping trip? Is it the first blooming Bitterroot? Is it the first dip in a Montana lake?

    Whatever you decide, we’ve got a set of photos to help bring on that summer mood, courtesy of our wonderful Facebook fans.

    Blooming Bitterroot. Photo by Robin K. Ha'o

    Blooming Bitterroot. Photo by Robin K. Ha’o

     

    Rufous hummingbird. Photo by Mary Kujawa

    Rufous hummingbird. Photo by Mary Kujawa

     

    Happy kit. Photo by Paul Wear

    Happy kit. Photo by Paul Wear

     

    Loon Lake. Photo by Robert Hosea, TheBobFactor.com

    Loon Lake. Photo by Robert Hosea, TheBobFactor.com

     

    Pine cone buds. Photo by Teri Garrison-Kinsman

    Pine cone buds. Photo by Teri Garrison-Kinsman

  • songs

    Big Sky Country hits: 11 songs about Montana

    You can get your YouTube fix and daydream about Montana all at the same time thanks to this roundup of the best 11 songs about Montana.

    There’s some heavy-hitter artists who have sang about the Big Sky State, including Willie Nelson and John Denver (see below).

    The list includes some contemporary artists too, including a song from Helena native Colin Meloy’s Decemberists.

    Now that’d you’ve see that list, what’d we forget?

    – Jenna

  • Volunteer Nathan May holds up a .50-70 cartridge case he uncovered on Wednesday, one of the few unearthed by late afternoon. Photo by James Woodcock

    Battlefield science: History-minded group combs Rosebud Battlefield

    Battlefield science and the art of excising history from places of war has made leaps and bounds in the past years. Advancements were on display at the Rosebud Battlefield last week when a group gathered to comb the land for clues about the history made there during the Indian Wars.

    Billings Gazette reporter Brett French was there in what is now the Rosebud Battlefield State Park where an intense battle took place before the infamous 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn was fought.

    By lining up, the volunteers hope to cover most of the ground with metal detectors. The public is not allowed to use metal detectors to search for artifacts at the state park. Photo by James Woodcock

    By lining up, the volunteers hope to cover most of the ground with metal detectors. The public is not allowed to use metal detectors to search for artifacts at the state park. Photo by James Woodcock

    Holding the corroded, dirt-filled piece of metal up to a small magnifying glass, Doug Scott confirmed what the volunteers surrounding him had waited almost breathlessly to hear.

    “It is what it’s supposed to be,” the historical ballistics expert said. “That’s a .50-70 fired in a Sharps, so definitely Indian.”

    The survey group led by Scott also inspected a swath of the park burned by a wildfire in 2013.

    “There were Cat lines through a battlefield site, which wasn’t good,” said Sara Scott, Heritage Resources Program manager for Montana State Parks. “The following year they went through and rehabbed it, and now it looks pretty good.”

    Artifacts unearthed at the Rosebud Battlefield included a 50 caliber cartridge, brass bead and a flint fire starter. Photo by James Woodcock

    Artifacts unearthed at the Rosebud Battlefield included a 50 caliber cartridge, brass bead and a flint fire starter. Photo by James Woodcock

    Before the dozer line was revegetated, Jim Bosse, a state parks volunteer, surveyed the overturned dirt for artifacts. He collected about 20 bullets and cartridge cases from the era of the battle.

    “It was amazing,” Bosse said. “History comes to life right before your eyes.”

    Read the rest of the story here.

    Get more Montana history all year by subscribing to Montana Magazine today.

     

  • Montana places to explore during Memorial Day weekend

     

    It’s a long weekend and a weekend that launches us into the wonderful time of year that is summer in Montana.

    If you’re looking for some inspiration to explore, we’ve some Montana beauty to share:

    • Take in a sunset. Photographer Alex Sholes caught this one near Stockett and shared it with us on our Facebook page. More of our favorite reader photos are here
    By Alex Sholes Photography

    By Alex Sholes Photography

     

  • The 35,000-square-foot building was constructed as a two-story post office in 1932, with the federal courthouse added on top during Prohibition. When Whitacre and his wife bought the building, water from the roof had extensively damaged much of the interior, but the basic structure was still sound. Photo by Tom Bauer

    H is for… Havre, where family restores crumbling court house

    It’s home of the Blue Ponies and one of Hi-Line’s most populated towns.

    Havre is also a place where one entrepreneurial family has renovated a once crumbling court house into a mix-used dwelling and gathering space.

    Missoulian reporter Cory Walsh has the story and photographer Tom Bauer has the photos in the ongoing newspaper Montana A to Z series.

    Marc Whitacre stands in the former federal courtroom that's being transformed into his family's great room, which will incorporate the kitchen into one corner. Photo by Tom Bauer

    Marc Whitacre stands in the former federal courtroom that’s being transformed into his family’s great room, which will incorporate the kitchen into one corner. Photo by Tom Bauer

    Eye doctors Marc Whitacre and Erica Farmer found Havre several years ago and purchased the old building.

    The building, which sits on Third Avenue in Havre’s historic downtown district, was originally constructed as a two-story post office.

    During Prohibition, Whitacre said, this Hi-Line town close to the Canadian border saw such a high volume of bootlegging and related arrests that a third floor was added for a federal courthouse, since it was cheaper than bringing the accused to Great Falls to face justice.

    • Of course, Havre isn’t the only H town in Montana. Can you name the other H towns across Montana? Here’s some help.

    The family’s upgrades have been both historically and creative minded.

    “The part that’s maintainable is the logic. It’s all relays,” he said. “There’s no solid-state electronics here. It’s all relays, transformers or fuel resistors and capacitors. It’s all technology that’s well-described. You can buy books on the subject, which I own. And I do all the maintenance work on the elevator that I can.”

    Whitacre stands in the former federal courtroom that's being transformed into his family's great room, which will incorporate the kitchen into one corner. Photo by Tom Bauer

    Whitacre stands in the former federal courtroom that’s being transformed into his family’s great room, which will incorporate the kitchen into one corner. Photo by Tom Bauer

    By state law, he keeps schematics posted in the mechanical room above the elevator shaft, where you can also manually raise or lower the elevator.

    (It’s labeled in case he’s the one stuck in the elevator: “Remove cap to winch.”)

    Read the entire story here.

    Jenna

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