Friday Flash 8/13/21

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Hell Creek State Park

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 is updated as fire activity impacts popular destination areas and includes information on wildland fires, fire restrictions, smoke and air quality across Montana. 

Recreate Responsibly & Fire Awareness Toolkits 

The Montana Office of Tourism is committed to keeping Montana’s outdoor spaces, communities, residents, and visitors safe. As part of this initiative, the Montana Office of Tourism has developed toolkits with resources to help you educate residents and visitors on safe travel best practices when it comes to wildland fires and safety.  

The Recreate Responsibly and Fire Safety & Awareness toolkits contain print and digital templates that may be customized to reflect a website for your organization, community, or business. 

We encourage you to use these pieces to spread the word and build awareness for responsible recreation and fire safety to visitors traveling throughout Montana. You can download the entire toolkit or individual pieces by clicking here

Save the Dates...

  • Tourism Partner Call—This bi-monthly call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 16 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. 
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021
  • October 4-5, 2021—TAC Meeting (Location TBD)
  • October 20, 2021—Region/CVB 1st Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due 
  • January 20, 2022—Region/CVB 2nd Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due
  • February 7-8, 2022—TAC Meeting (Location TBD)
  • April 20, 2022—Region/CVB 3rd Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due
  • July 20 , 2022—Region/CVB 4th Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due

Staff Update

Haley Walter

Welcome Haley Walter to the Marketing Bureau

We are pleased to announced that Haley Walter has joined our marketing team as the Campaign Manager. 

Haley interned for the Department in 2017. Since her internship, Haley graduated from Montana State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing followed by a move to Dallas, TX to work for The Loomis Agency to begin her career in advertising. While she enjoyed exploring a new state, it didn’t take long for Haley to realize that her heart was in Montana, and moved back after two years in The Lone Star State. Haley comes to us from MDT, where she worked as a Public Involvement Officer.  

Haley is excited to be back at the Department of Commerce to share the beauty of her home state with others with her new position as Marketing Campaign Manager. In her spare time, you can find Haley on new adventures with her friends and family, or spending time with her dog, Moose.” Please join us in welcoming Haley to the Department.

Tourism Grant Program

Tourism Grant Application Cycle is Open!

The application cycle of the Tourism Grant Program is now open. Tourism grant funds are awarded through the annual application cycle to projects that develop and enhance tourism and recreation products in Montana and have the potential to increase non-resident visitation and expenditures.

The 2022 application closes promptly at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 15. For more information about the Tourism Grant Program, and to download workshop materials, please visit our website at MARKETMT.COM

Made in Montana

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

Longest Table


For a fun and unique culinary experience, make plans to attend the 5th Annual 'Montana’s Longest Table' on Saturday, August 28 at 5:00 p.m. in Lewistown!

Enjoy a meal created by local restaurants and featuring ingredients from local farms and ranches. To purchase tickets, call 406.239.6127. You can also visit the website here.

International News

Montanans Head North as Canada Reopens Border

Two weeks ago, Greg Rice and Joyce Bateman were turned around at the Canadian border. The Helena residents were hoping to haul some building materials 2,974 miles to their daughter’s place in Alaska.

The U.S.-Canadian border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But northbound travel over the border opened Monday as Canada welcomed back fully vaccinated Americans, drawing a line of 30-40 vehicles by 8:30 a.m. “They sent us back two weeks ago,” Rice said. “We’ve been waiting.”

The border service didn’t consider their work plans on the home in Alaska “essential,” so Rice and Bateman returned to the Port of Sweetgrass on Interstate 15 on Monday armed with fresh, negative COVID test results and a close read on the rules set by the neighbors to the north.

Rice and Bateman, who have both been fully vaccinated for months, made clear they’re not against the rules meant to keep Canadians safe. “It’s not that hard,” Bateman said. “You just have to follow the rules.” “It’s just a hiccup,” Rice said.

For this stretch of the state, the border closure has delivered different impacts to different people. Agriculture producers have been cut off from purchasing equipment parts in Alberta without a receipt, although commercial freighters could bring the parts down.

Shelby, one of the larger towns on the I-15 corridor, has suffered some from the loss of through traffic headed for Great Falls, the commercial hub for the area, said Shelby Chamber of Commerce Director Ashley Holten last week.

The U.S. side is not open to Canadian travelers until at least Aug. 21, Read more from the Helena IR here

Outdoor Recreation

Mid-Year Report Shows Boom in State Park Visitors

More than 1.5 million people have visited state parks in the first half of 2021

Fire and smoke are choking out some Montana communities, but mid-year visitation numbers show tourism is thriving, with a record number of visitors flocking to state parks this year.

Visitation to Montana parks so far has increased 11.1% over 2020 and 44.1% over 2019, according to data provided by the University of Montana’s Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research.

Tim Hedin, a guide at Absarokee River Adventures, a whitewater rafting guide company, said that business was good last year and has been even better this year.

“This year it exploded even more; it’s busier than I’ve ever seen. It’s awesome,” he said. “We’ve had to turn people away. No business likes doing that, but we’ve been booked out two to three weeks in advance.”

Many of Montana’s small businesses rely on summer tourism to survive. In 2019, out-of-state guests brought in $3.76 billion in revenue, and even with the travel challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 saw $3.15 billion of revenue, according to the institute.

Those local businesses have benefited from another busy season this year, with the institute counting a record number of visitors to state parks.

Kara Grau, associate director of economic analysis at the institute, said state park visitation shows an increase of about 1.6 million visitors during the first half of 2021. But it’s not just state parks, she said. “A similar trend is being experienced by areas managed by FWP, like fishing access sites, so that gives us some kind of indication of both in-state and out-of-state residents using state parks and fishing access sites,” she said.

With increased visitors to Montana, lodging tax has seen a big boost, with quarter one revenues up 28% from 2020 and up 20% from the same period in 2019. Read more from the Flathead Beacon here

FWP Seeking Public Input on Proposed Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area Near Columbia Falls

Project would protect public access, wildlife habitat on 772 acres along Flathead River
Kalispell — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public input on whether it should purchase approximately 772 acres of forestland along the Flathead River near Columbia Falls to protect public recreation access, fish and wildlife habitat, and water quality. Known as the Bad Rock Canyon project, the property is located off U.S. Highway 2 and would be protected as a Wildlife Management Area.

FWP has detailed the proposal in a draft environmental assessment that is open for public comment until 5:00 p.m., Sept. 8, 2021. A virtual public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. to provide information on the project and answer questions from the public. The online meeting will be streamed via Zoom online at

Following this latest public comment period, FWP will forward a recommendation on whether to complete the acquisition to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission. If approved, the project would go before the Montana Land Board for final review.

Comments can be sent to FWP’s Kris Tempel at or Bad Rock Canyon WMA, Montana FWP, Attn: Kris Tempel, 490 N. Meridian, Kalispell, MT 59901. For more information, click here

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

Heritage/Cultural News

"Special Edition Western Art Week" set to begin August 18 in Great Falls

There was a lot of construction happening at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls on Thursday, but the museum is no doubt ready for the "Special Edition Western Art Week" beginning August 18 and running through August 22.

With construction at the C.M. Russell Museum in the home stretch, Western Art Week attendees will get to experience a new and improved museum. "We'll have a large white tent on our campus. that's to support the sale and all the activities that will occur here at the museum with the Russell Exhibition and sale. They'll also notice our redesigned entryway and a large grass area,” explained museum director Tom Figarelle.

Figarelle anticipated the week could be unlike any other: "I think the separation and the distance that people have experienced by not coming to Western Art Week in 2020 will definitely energize people and motivate them to connect with friends they haven't seen. So there is this kind of family reunion aspect to Western Art Week in 2021 that maybe we haven't felt in the same way previously, so it will be fun just to see folks that you've been talking to on the phone and you've been holding Zoom sessions with.” Read more from KRTV here

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


Great FallsElectric Scooter Company Bird Arrives in Great Falls—Electric scooter company Bird is bringing e-scooters to Great Falls. Currently, the scooters shows above are available in front of Speaking Socially at 509 1st Avenue North.

In order to rent one of the scooters, you must download the Bird app and follow the instructions. Click here for details. Bird scooters generally cost $1 to unlock; the per-minute cost to ride varies between cities.

According to the Bird app, the cost in Great Falls is 39 cents per minute, and the minimum per-ride cost is $3.50 . There are several locations in downtown Great Falls to choose from, based on the Bird map.

The City of Great Falls said in a news release on Friday that electric scooters can be used on roads and in bike lanes and have a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. Scooters must be parked out of the way of pedestrians and must never block driveways. 

Riders must be at least 18 years old access the Bird scooters. Riders are encouraged to wear a helmet on every ride and must comply with all standard rules of the road applicable to bicycles. Read more from KTVQ here


Destination Analysts Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of August 9

As the Delta variant wreaks havoc, the backslide in travel sentiment continues, diminishing months of gains. But travel is still on the horizon for Americans, with over half of travelers expecting to take at least one overnight trip in the next 3 months.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Optimism about the pandemic has receded to a level last seen during the Winter COVID-19 surge. Since June 8th, optimism has fallen over 40 percentage points, reaching a year-to-date low of 20.4%. Instead, over half of American travelers now expect the pandemic to get worse in the U.S. over the next month. Americans feeling pre-pandemic normalcy has tumbled another 7 percentage points to 25.3%, after reaching 42.7% a month ago.
  • After months of steady recovery, confidence in travel’s safety now continues to decline. After hitting a high of 52.9% just six weeks ago, the percent of American travelers who feel “confident” or “very confident” they can travel safely in the current environment fell to 36.6%. Nearly half (48.0%) agree that media coverage of the COVID-19 situation has them doubting that it is safe to travel. Fortunately, the majority of American travelers still feel road tripping, dining in restaurants, staying in a hotel, visiting amusement parks and other outdoor attractions, shopping and outdoor recreational activities are safe; however, it’s notable that less than half now consider flying on an airplane, visiting a museum or indoor attraction, and riding in an Uber/taxi is safe.
  • Delta variant-related concerns are disrupting trip plans and making it more difficult to market travel right now. This week, a notable number of American travelers continued to say the Delta variant had caused trip postponements (27.0%, up from 25.4% July 26th) and even cancellations 23.0%, up from 18.9%). Travel enthusiasm overall has certainly been impacted. More than 54% say that the Delta variant has made them less interested in traveling right now. Those with high levels of excitement to travel now is down to 60.7% from 68.2% two weeks ago, while openness to travel inspiration fell to 54.1% from 64.4%. Travelers reporting a “not ready” mindset has climbed to 28.4% from 19.3% one month ago. These concerns extend to their home communities, as well. Those saying they don’t want tourists in town right now hit 41.9%, the highest it has been since Memorial Day.
  • Male travelers are feeling more positive. In our survey this week, those who identify as men report lower stress levels and a stronger sense of normalcy in their lives. Relative to women, they are more confident they can travel safely and exhibit greater optimism and commitment to their travel future. A key factor may be vaccination status. This week, 74.2% of male travelers report receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 58.9% of women.
  • More vaccinations will come. Nearly a quarter of unvaccinated American travelers say they will get a COVID-19 vaccine this year. Another 29.4% of these unvaccinated travelers say they are open to getting the COVID vaccine but need more information about it.
  • As we head out of the summer peak —and despite diminished enthusiasm right now —many Americans are still planning Fall travel. With the peak summer travel weeks in the rearview mirror and COVID concerns up, the percentage of travelers expecting to take one or more overnight leisure trips in the next three months has fallen to 51.5% from 63.0% July 26th. Meanwhile just 34.4% say now is a good time to spend money on travel, down from 42.4% two weeks ago, and Americans reporting travel as a budget priority dropped to 51.3% from 62.2%. And yet 75% of American travelers still did some travel dreaming or planning in the last week alone, with 23.9% reporting trip plans for September, and 26.1% for October.
  • Financial sentiment is steady. Over 44% of American travelers feel that their household will be better off financially a year from now. Just 11.3% anticipate that they will be worse off. Meanwhile, recent spending on leisure travel was strong, with the typical American traveler reporting spending $995.94 on their last overnight trip within the past month.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here


Montana 2020 Census Count Showing Local Populations Counts Released for Redistricting

The last decade has shown important changes in Montana’s population based on the release this week of the 2020 Census Redistricting Data. Learn more at CEIC.MT.GOV.

Other News

Governor Gianforte Announces Montana Ambassador Award Recipients

Governor Greg Gianforte this week announced the Montana Ambassador Awards, honoring individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to economic development in Montana.

"I appreciate the Montana Ambassadors' partnership as we work to make Montana an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and achieve the American dream,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Our Montana Ambassadors are making an important difference by supporting Montana's entrepreneurs and job creators and telling the Montana story broadly to encourage new job-creating businesses in our state.”

The honorees will be recognized this evening in Anaconda at the Montana Ambassadors Annual meeting.

  • The Montana Ambassador Placemaker of the Year—West Paw, Spencer Williams
  • The Montana Ambassador Legislator of the Year—Senator Jason Ellsworth
  • The Montana Ambassadors Mike Malone Educators of the Year—Gregory M Johnson
  • The Montana Ambassador Business of the Year—Inimmune
  • The Montana Ambassador Entrepreneur of the Year—Jon & Cassie Wick, 5518 Designs
  • The Montana Ambassador Plenipotentiary Award—Bill Johnston
  • Montana Ambassador of the Year —Front Line Workers

To read the full press release, click here

The Montana Ambassadors is a volunteer, not-for-profit association made up of passionate people dedicated to living and doing business in Montana. Our members act as official Ambassadors of the State of Montana, both in and out of state, and represent the Office of the Governor and the Department of Commerce. Ambassadors are predominantly leaders in business and education, as well as many other professions. Learn more at

Funding Resources

CARES Act Funding Available

Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the State of Montana, Department of Commerce was awarded Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG CARES) to support communities as they respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible applicants include towns, cities, and counties. Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula – known as entitlement areas – are eligible applicants for CDBG CARES, but CDBG CARES regulations limit the amount of CDBG CARES the State of Montana can award to these entitlement areas. Other entities such as tribes, non-profits, public housing authorities, etc., although not eligible directly, may apply in partnership with an eligible applicant.

Applications due by September 15. Learn more and apply today at COMDEV.MT.GOV.

FY 2021 American Rescue Plan Act Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Notice of Funding Opportunity

Through the Travel, Tourism & Outdoor Recreation program, EDA is focused on accelerating the recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. 

  • State Tourism Grants: Eligible applicants for EDA’s Statewide Planning Grants include Governors, the Mayor of DC, and other applicable Territory leaders or their designees. EDA will send these applicants a formal invitation to apply.
  • Competitive Grants: Eligible applicants for EDA’s Competitive Tourism Grants program include a(n):
    • District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District
    • Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes
    • State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, including a special purpose unit of a State or local government engaged in economic or infrastructure development activities, or a consortium of political subdivisions
    • Institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education
    • Public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a State
    • Individuals or for-profit entities are not eligible

Email your questions about the American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism & Outdoor Recreation program to Visit EDA.GOV/Contact to find contact information for your Economic Development Representative. For more information click here

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.

Other Events/Dates to Note

August 17–19, 2021Montana Chamber of Commerce 2021 Economic Update Series—The pandemic has taken a toll on small businesses, corporations, and employers. After a year of ups and downs, the Montana Chamber of Commerce is hosting three mid-year Economic Updates presented by Dr. Pat Barkey (University of Montana, Bureau of Business & Economic Research) for in-depth analysis on local, state, and national economic projections.

  • August 17 - Bozeman (GranTree)
  • August 18 - Billings (Northern Hotel)
  • August 19 - Helena (Delta by Marriott)

Registration is $40 for Montana Chamber members and $50 for non-members; price includes meal. For more information or to register, click here

August 23–September 9, 2021FWP Director, Deputy Director Hosting Open Houses Around the State—Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks director, deputy director and members of their staff will be visiting regional offices during a tour of the state in August and September. Director Hank Worsech and Deputy Director Dustin Temple invite the public to join them at regional FWP offices for open houses.

All meetings will run from 5:00–8:00 p.m. The schedule is as follows:

  • August 23: Region 2 Headquarters in Missoula, 3201 Spurgin Road
  • August 24: Region 1 Headquarters in Kalispell, 490 North Meridian Road
  • August 31: Region 4 Headquarters in Great Falls, 4600 Giant Springs Road
  • September 1: Region 6 Headquarters in Glasgow, 1 Airport Road
  • September 7: Region 3 Headquarters in Bozeman, 1400 South 19th
  • September 8: Region 5 Headquarters in Billings, 2300 Lake Elmo Drive
  • September 9: Region 7 Headquarters in Miles City, 352 I-94 Business Loop

“It’s been a busy year and we know people have a lot of things they’re interested in discussing,” said Worsech. “This is a great opportunity for us to hear directly from the public on topics they’re passionate about.” FWP ensures its meetings are fully accessible to those with special needs. To request arrangements, call FWP at 406.444.3186.

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.

October 17–20, 2021MLHA (Montana Lodging & Hospitality Association) Fall Tourism Conference and Trade Show (Whitefish)—Be sure to mark your calendar for the MLHA Fall Conference to be held in Whitefish at both the Grouse Mountain Lodge and The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

The event will kick off with a networking social Sunday, October 17, at 8:00 pm and conclude on Wednesday, October 20 at 10:30 am after the annual membership meeting. The Conference committee has an exciting program planned featuring dynamic speakers addressing relevant topics, a Trade Show showcasing our Allied Partners and a Tuesday evening Awards Banquet. Registration details will be released in late August.