Friday Flash 7/16/21

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Wildland Fire Information for Travelers

The Montana Department of Commerce will again provide relevant wildland fire updates and resources for tourism partners and the traveling public at MARKETMT.COM. The page will be updated as fire activity impacts popular destination areas including information on wildland fires, smoke and air quality and fire restrictions across Montana.

Save the Dates...

  • July 20, 2021—Region/CVB 4th Quarter Financial Reports Due 
  • October 4-5, 2021—TAC Meeting (Location TBD)
  • Tourism Partner Call—This bi-monthly call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 18 CVBs, the Montana Tourism Advisory Council and specific industry stakeholders. The calls are held on the fourth Wednesday, every other month from 10:00-11:00 a.m. For assistance or information regarding this call, please contact Barb Sanem or call her at 406.841.2769. 
    • July 28, 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021

Recreate Responsibly

Rec Resp

Recreate Responsibly Toolkit and Resources

The Montana Office of Tourism is committed to keeping Montana’s outdoor spaces, communities, residents, and visitors safe. Please join us communicating these guidelines for responsible recreation to visitors traveling throughout Montana. 

As part of this initiative, the Montana Office of Tourism has developed a toolkit of resources to help you educate residents and visitors on safe travel best practices. To learn more or download the toolkit, click here

Tourism Grant Program

Tourism Grant Application Cycle Opens August 1!

We are happy to announce that the annual application cycle of the Tourism Grant Program will open at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 1, 2021 via Submittable, an online platform. The 2022 application cycle will close at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 15.

In preparation for the application cycle, the Tourism Grant Program is hosting a training webinar via Zoom on July 22 at 2:00 p.m.. This webinar will provide a review of the program guidelines and timeline; updates to the FY22 cycle and an overview of the application. To register for the FY22 pre-application workshops click here.  

For more information about the Tourism Grant Program and the annual application cycle please visit our website at MARKETMT.COM

Our Grants Make a Big Impact in Montana Communities

Brothers Preserving Legacy of Yellowstone National Park Tour Buses—Don and John Mueller are brothers who share a love of the history of the nation’s oldest national park and a love of the old buses that used to tour it in the years before World War II.

Driving down Broadway Avenue in Red Lodge in a bright yellow bus made by White Motors in 1937 is definitely an attention-getter, drawing stares and waves. The bus is one of the four Yellowstone National Park vehicles acquired by the Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust.

“We decided we should do something to preserve the history and keep it here close to the park. So that’s how it came about,” explains John. “They are unique in design that they were specifically designed for touring, and they are one of the icons of the park. They are very recognizable worldwide.”

The buses, along with a couple older Lincoln Touring cars and a 1941 Park utility truck, are all on display at this historic former service station in Red Lodge. Read more from KTVQ here. The Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust was awarded $36,000 from the Montana Department of Commerce’s Tourism Grant program.

Made in Montana

Shop Local

We encourage you to support your local businesses when possible. The Made in Montana online directory is a great place to find Made in Montana items and support local businesses. 

Eat Local

Now more than ever, the "eat local" movement is gaining interest. People want to know where their food is coming from. Our Taste our Place program aims to promote and increase the use of locally sourced ingredients at Montana restaurants, bars and other establishments serving food and beverages. Check out this list of Taste our Place members and savor the Montana flavor when dining out.   

2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow 

The Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food & Gifts is scheduled for September 10-11, 2021 in Helena at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds. 

Wholesale Buyer Registration Open
Join us for the 2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow to discover all new Made in Montana products as well as old favorites for your retail space. This year's show will feature 125 Made in Montana producers, over 30 new exhibitors, and our Native American Made in Montana Pavilion.

Buyers can pre-register through Friday, September 3, 2021, but can also register on-site the day of the show. To learn more or to register as a wholesale buyer, click here

Seeking Nominations for 2021 Retailer of the Year!
This award recognizes a Made in Montana retailer who makes an outstanding effort to represent the Made in Montana brand, supports Montana producers, and is committed to promoting the sale of Made in Montana goods to residents and visitors alike. 

If you know of a retailer that fits the description, this is your chance to nominate them to be honored as the 2021 Made in Montana Retailer of the Year. Nominations are due by Wednesday, August 4, 2021. 

MIM Members in the News

Little Shell Tribe Member Raises Funds with Art for Survivors and Families Impacted by Boarding Schools—When Jerrid Gray heard about the hundreds of unmarked graves of Native children found recently at boarding schools in Canada, he felt helpless, and he knew such atrocities were not too far removed from his own family’s history.

“I was born in Montana,” said Gray, an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. “It is so close … if I was just born across that arbitrary line I could have been made to go to these schools.”

For the past two years Gray has been creating sculptures from travertine (a type of limestone), and he’s selling his entire collection of artwork to raise funds for the National Native American Board School Healing Coalition. He pulled his works, on display at the Downtown Billings Alliance and Simply Local Marketplace, to offer for sale during Saturday’s Strawberry Festival. Read more from the Billings Gazette here.

Jerrid Gray is a Native American Made in Montana Member. You can find more information on his sculptures here

All About Emus: Flightless Birds Offer Challenges, Opportunities, Longtime Grower Says—Emus are curious birds, longtime rancher Don Collins mused as he entered a pen full of yearlings. About 20 of the large, flightless birds immediately flocked around him. 

That curiosity makes working with them tricky, Collins said. A farmer might feel a pinch from a beak or get a tool snatched out of his hand. “Anything that’s different, they will peck at,” he said. “Especially shiny stuff.”

It’s a quiet Tuesday morning on Collins’ Kalispell, Mont., ranch, except for the drum beat vocalizations of the emu hens and the occasional grunts of the males. Collins, 64, good-naturedly chats about emus. He knows these birds — he’s run one of the nation’s largest emu ranches since 1992, raising 600 emus at a time on his 40 acres. 

In 1992, Collins was working in the wholesale beverage industry. Penni, his wife, worked as a motorcycle shop manager. They bought their first pair of emus, expecting the birds to produce supplemental income. “Then we got so involved in it, it became our primary income,” Collins said.

In 1998, they established a “Laid in Montana” brand, referring to the emu’s green eggs. They incorporated as the Montana Emu Ranch Co. in 2004. Now, Collins estimates, they’re one of the top 10 emu ranches in the country. Read more from Capital Press here

The Montana Emu Ranch Co. is a Grown in Montana/Made in Montana member. For more information, click here

Outdoor Recreation

American Trails Presents Advancing Trails Webinar Series

New Webinars Added! American Trails brings agencies, trailbuilders, advocates, and volunteers the latest in state-of-the-art information on all aspects of trails and greenways. Our webinars focus on a variety of trail topics, usually applicable to all trail types, with expert presenters. Webinar topics are chosen from current cutting-edge trail topics selected from attendee/presenter suggestions as well as recent popular conference sessions. For more information, visit or click on individual webinar links below. 

Upcoming webinars:

If you missed a previous webinar, they are available for FREE and immediate download here

Sharing the Love of the Lower Yellowstone

The state has launched a $4 million plan to expand access along the eastern stretches of the longest undammed river in the Lower 48 in hopes of drawing tourists and tapping economic potential.

The Yellowstone River powers a formidable economic engine as it flows out of Yellowstone National Park, bringing tens of millions of dollars in nonresident angler revenue to Park County alone. But as the river continues eastward, widening, deepening and warming as it approaches its confluence with the Missouri River, those recreation and tourism dollars start to dry up. That’s due in part to gaps in the river’s recreation infrastructure. The Lower Yellowstone River Coalition, a group of elected officials, economic development councils, recreationists and conservationists, has a plan to change that.

FWP is assembling a 12-person steering committee to develop recommendations for projects the department can fund. Angie Grove, the committee’s chair and former chair of the State Parks & Recreation Board, said FWP would like to assemble a group that represents diverse interests, including recreationists, landowners, members of local conservation and irrigation districts and community members.

Grove is hoping to hold an initial meeting in July and wrap up in four to six months. She said she intends to find ways to leverage the $4 million appropriated by the Legislature through matching grants from private donors and federal programs. Read more from Montana Free Press here.


Stargazing Gains Followers, Promotes Tourism in Rural Regions

Ancient Hawaiian sailors used stars to navigate across the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and pioneer a new homeland. About 3,000 years ago, the Mayans used astronomy to develop an incredibly accurate calendar that calculated the winter solstice in December 2012.

All of these feats were made possible by people gaining knowledge from studying the nighttime sky. Today, as artificial light pollution brightens dark streets and parking lots, night skies have become less visible in urban areas. Mike Weasner, a dark sky advocate who lives in Arizona, said when he was in New York City he met a lifelong resident who had “absolutely no concept of what he couldn’t see. “That’s an unfortunate aspect of this,” he said.

Slowly, however, dark sky advocates like Weasner are building a following by reigniting interest in stargazing in areas where light pollution is least prevalent. In Montana, that includes places like Medicine Rocks State Park near Ekalaka in southeastern Montana. “We have some of the darkest skies in the world,” said Sabre Moore, director of the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka. “You can see all of the stars in the Pleiades,” a group of more than 800 stars.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was the first International Dark-Sky Park spanning an international border. Glacier and Medicine Rocks have gained International Dark-Sky Association-approved designations. 

Moore helped with the legwork to get the IDSA designation for Medicine Rocks granted last December. Throughout this summer, she is helping to organize events around stargazing at the park.

Pompeys Pillar, east of Billings, held a sold-out “star party” in June for 100 people and has plans for another one on July 30, said Brenda Maas, director of marketing for the tourism promotion group Visit Southeast Montana.

At Fort Peck, Carla Hunsley, executive director of Missouri River Country, is working to organize a Night Sky Trail map for the region. Among the 20 areas identified so far, many are along the shores of Fort Peck Reservoir, one of the main tourism attractions in the region.

“We are encouraging families to come out and visit our dark skies,” she said, as the number of people owning boats and campers has crowded lakeside campgrounds and docks. Read more from the Billings Gazette here

Montana in the News
Tourism Partner Shout-Outs, Recognition and News

MontanaWestern MT Car Rental Shortage has Dealerships, Private Car Owners Switching Gears—People are finally able to travel again, and for a lot of them, that means hopping on a plane and heading to the great state of Montana.

Tourists can get here, but finding a reliable set of wheels once they’re here has become yet another unexpected product of the pandemic. “We have tons of people moving to this area and tons of people vacationing here,” said Clark Nissan general manager Audrey Knight. 

“They’re from out of state and they’re desperate, the airport is out of rentals until August,” echoed Missoula Nissan general manager Justin Sinclair. 

With names like “Big Sky Country,” “The Last Best Place,” and “The Treasure State,” can you really blame tourists for wanting to visit Montana? The answer is no, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you try to book a rental car and nothing is available.

“We have a car shortage across the nation and the rental car companies aren't getting the numbers in their fleets that they normally do,” Knight told MTN News.

According to local car dealerships, the problem began when COVID put an end to travel plans last year. Car rental reservations were canceled, employees laid off, and companies forced to downsize their fleets.

Nissan dealerships in Missoula and Kalispell both predicted this shortage in rental cars, so they’ve begun renting cars out of their own fleets, something they’ve done on a much smaller scale for many years.

In addition to dealership rentals, a new company called Turo allows private car owners to rent out their vehicles. Similar to the Airbnb business model, customers can download the Turo app, search their desired location, and choose from local renters. Most vehicles go for about $150 per day. A less conventional option, but an option nonetheless, has been spotted as tourists take advantage of moving companies like U-Haul, renting a truck for the day as they tour the state. Read more from KPAX here

Big SkyRodgers and DeChambeau Dominate as Scenic Big Sky Shines During TBS Broadcast of 'The Match'—Big Sky’s The Reserve at Moonlight Basin golf course hosted ‘The Match', providing stunning views for all who tuned in to watch.

Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Championship winning-quarterback Aaron Rodgers was paired with 2020 U.S. Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau as they faced off against golf legend Phil Mickelson and seven-time Super Bowl Winner Tom Brady in alternate shot match play. Rodgers and Dechambeau pulled away on the back nine to seal the win with a Rodgers birdie on hole 16.

The course at Big Sky, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus, sits in a corridor surrounded by mountains like Lone Peak and Fan Mountain. On social media you could find a lot of people talking about the competitors, but most were in awe of Montana's beauty and how they would love to travel to the state. Read more from Montana Sports here

Clearwater JunctionNew and Improved BIG Bull Returns to Clearwater Junction—Just in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the Clearwater Cow is back! Many people have been wondering what happened to the big bull that sits on the corner of Highways 200 and 83 at Clearwater Junction when you're traveling to Evening Anchor Angela Marshall's hometown of Seeley Lake.

Now, we know. The owner of Clearwater Stop N Go, where the cow sits, wanted to give the steer a fresh, new look for 2021's Independence Day celebration. So Roxanne Ross called the team at Town & Country Auto Body in Missoula and they came to the rescue.

The cow was dropped off at their shop on Mother's Day in need of some serious repairs. They had to reattach a horn, fix the tail and patch 32 bullet holes in the body, all on top of giving it a fresh coat of paint, 70's style. Read more from Montana Right Now here

Kalispell5 Charming American Towns with Mountain Views, from Montana to Maine—Beach vacations and theme park trips are fun, but perhaps consider switching your destination to a charming mountain town with majestic views of nature’s splendor plus outdoor exploration opportunities.

“America the Beautiful” is true to the song’s title and Kalispell is listed in USA Today's list of five U.S. mountain towns offer breathtaking vista views, a plethora of outdoor activities and wonderful culinary scenes. Read more from USA Today here


Destination Analysts Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of July 12

With increased savings and greater financial wellness, 44.6% of Americans feel that now is a good time to spend money on leisure travel. However, travelers are still feeling price conscious, with 59.2% agreeing that travel prices are generally too high right now—particularly hotel rates, gas, airfare and car rentals. In fact, these high travel prices have deterred 36.9% of Americans from traveling in the past month.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Overnight trips are on the rise. Over half of American travelers took an overnight trip in the past three months (52.2%, up from 44.6% the week of June 28th). These overnight travelers were overwhelmingly satisfied with their trips, despite some reporting less satisfactory experiences with restaurants not being fully open (22.1%) and travel prices being high (20.5%). Still though, one-in-three of these recent overnight travelers report that their recent travel experiences have made them more enthusiastic to travel (32.2%).
  • However, the spreading Delta variant is giving American travelers pause. In fact, 51.0% say they are less interested in traveling right now because of the variant and more expect the coronavirus situation to get worse in the U.S. in the next month (19.6%, up from 16.2% the week of June 28th). Additionally, after dipping to a pandemic-record low of 31.6% the week of May 31st, more American travelers now agree that they do not want travelers visiting their community right now (39.6%).
  • There is hope for increased vaccinations amongst travelers. Of those who remain unvaccinated, 34.2% say they will get inoculated soon or at some point this year, while 23.8% are open to the vaccine but need more time or information. Unfortunately, 36.7% of this group say they will not take the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Americans feel that now is a good time to spend money on leisure travel. With over two-thirds (67.9%) of American travelers reporting having been able to save at least some money this month and 42.1% saying their household is “better off” financially compared to one year ago, 44.6% of travelers feel that now is a good time to spend their money on leisure travel—a sentiment that is much more strongly held amongst younger travelers (57.8% for Millennials or younger, 45.7% for Gen X vs. 30.9% for Boomers or older).
  • Despite increased savings, travelers are still feeling price conscious. 50.6% of Americans say that travel rewards programs will continue to be important to how they generally plan their leisure travels and 69.8% agree that getting the lowest possible prices while traveling is important to them. Still though, travelers are feeling the sting of increased travel costs, with 59.2% agreeing that travel prices are generally too high right now, particularly hotel rates, gasoline, airline tickets and car rental fees. When asked if high travel prices have kept them from traveling in the past month, 36.9% agree that it has.
  • Travelers’ increasing environmental conscientiousness should not be discounted. 52.3% feel that the environmental impact of travel is “important” or “very important” when planning their trips and 38.1% “usually” or “always” make their travel plans specifically thinking about the impact of travel on the environment.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

Funding Resources

FY22 Montana Indian Equity Fund Small Business Grant 

The Office of Indian Country Economic Development is accepting applications to the fiscal year 2022 Indian Equity Fund (IEF) Small Business Grant program. Applications will be accepted through August 31, 2021.

Grant funds are intended to support tribal members in Montana to start or grow their business by deploying funds to support their business strategy. Funds may be used for the purchase of land, building and equipment, assets including furnishings, equipment and technology and selected use of working capital and business operations. 

Tribal enrolled members of Montana tribes are the only eligible applicants for this portion of the Program. All applications must include documentation of tribal enrollment. A maximum of $14,000 per eligible applicant will be available in fiscal year 2022. 

Native American Business Advisors are available on each Reservation to assist applicants as they develop their grant proposals. Contact information for each advisor is available at NABA.

For more information contact Luke Robinson or visit the website.

Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge

USDA is making available up to $3 million in cooperative agreements under the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC) for eligible entities to help them provide planning support, technical assistance and training to foster placemaking activities in rural communities. Qualified entities can use the funds to help rural communities create plans to enhance capacity for broadband access; preserve cultural and historic structures; and support the development of transportation, housing, and recreational spaces. For more information, click here

Other Events/Dates to Note

July 27, 2021ARPA Infrastructure Advisory Commission Meeting—The ARPA Infrastructure Advisory Commission will meet Tuesday, July 27, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. in the State Capitol. The meeting will be held in Room 137 as well as virtually, and livestreamed here. Click the “Streaming For Today” button on

If you cannot be in Helena and would like to give live public comment, you may join the meeting via Zoom. Please email by noon, July 26, 2021, to request login information.

During the meeting, the Commission will discuss public comments, review outreach activities, and summarize applications received. 

Find the meeting agenda and information here

September 23-25, 202148th Annual Montana History Conference (Butte)—After a year of isolation and social distancing, the Montana Historical Society is excited to gather with our friends for “A Blast from the Past! Mining Montana History.” The Montana History Conference is an annual gathering of history enthusiasts from across the state and the nation.

The conference begins on Thursday with workshops ranging from re-registering you livestock brand to tips for getting your historical books and articles published. Thursday also offers an educators’ workshop and the ever-popular, daylong Made in Montana Tour.

Thursday evening finds us in historic Uptown sampling “A Taste of Butte” in a progressive reception featuring the Elks Club, Headframe Distillery, and 51 Below Speakeasy. Afterward, the adventurous can join Ellen Baumler for tales of historical otherworldly encounters followed by a visit to some of Butte’s most haunted places.

On Friday and Saturday, conference sessions will feature a wide array of speakers and topics including scandals at the State Highway Commission and the State Normal College in Dillon, to the Great Explosion of 1895 and tales of Butte’s infamous “Galloping Gallows. For full program and registration information, click here.