Friday Flash 9/17/21

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Reminders/Updates for Our Tourism Partners

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  • 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, 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

Tourism Grant Program

2022 Tourism Grant Application Update

The FY22 Tourism Grant application cycle closed on September 15. The submissions will be evaluated by a review team comprised of staff from the Industry Services & Outreach Bureau and the Office of Indian Country Economic Development as well as three members of the Tourism Advisory Council.

An announcement of the tourism grant awards for this cycle is anticipated in late November. We encourage you to subscribe to receive email updates from the Department of Commerce for other and future funding opportunities by clicking here. For more information about the Tourism Grant Program, please visit our website at MARKETMT.COM

Our Tourism Grants Make a Big Impact in Montana Communities

Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust Completes Building Stucco Restoration—The exterior stucco restoration and painting of the Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust’s historic building in Red Lodge was recently completed. The weeks of hard work and skilled craftsmanship are readily visible to all who pass by or visit the building.

The historic building was built in 1936 by A.D. Whitcomb and is the site of one of the oldest, if not the oldest, service stations that operated continuously in the state of Montana. Today it is used to display and store the Buses’ fleet of original operating vehicles used in Yellowstone Park prior to World War II.

The exterior restoration of the building was done in accordance with an Architectural Assessment performed by a Preservation Architect in early 2020. The assessment provided a comprehensive assessment of the building in its current condition and a detailed roadmap for future restoration efforts. Restoration of the exterior stucco was one of the tasks identified in the assessment.

The Buses received funding from the Montana History Foundation and the Montana Department of Commerce Tourism Grant Programs to support the exterior restoration and painting of the stucco. Board members from the Montana History Foundation were recently in Red Lodge to view restoration progress as well as take a ride in one of the Buses’ historic vehicles. Read more from the Laurel Outlook here

Made in Montana

Retailer of the Year

Polson Business Wins Retailer of the Year Award at 2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow

Polson business handMADE Montana and owner Carol Lynn Lapotka was honored by her peers as the 2021 Retailer of the Year. Montana Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras, Department of Agriculture Director Christy Clark and Commerce Director Scott Osterman presented the Award to Lapotka today at the annual Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food and Gifts.

Each year, Montana retailers are nominated by their communities and across the state to receive this prestigious award. This year, there was overwhelming support for handMADE Montana.

“It’s small business owners like Carol at handMADE Montana who highlight the very best of Montana-made handcrafted goods while providing a supportive platform for local artisans,” said Montana Department of Commerce Director Scott Osterman.

Located on Main Street in Polson, the handMADE Montana store sells over 80 local and regional modern handcrafted goods, includes 65 artists and has a fully visible and functioning production studio in the back for REcreate Designs. In addition, handMADE is an event and community resource organization for artisans, provides selling opportunities for artists and offers workshops in small business development.

Carol Lynn Lapotka is also notably known for organizing the award-winning MADE fairs, Montana's largest art and handcrafted markets.

Other award winners included: 

Farver Farms

Best in Show OverallFarver Farms

Best in Show New ExhibitorRebekah Jarvey

Rebekah Jarvey

Best in Show Honorable

Montana Film Office


FY22 Big Sky Film Grant

The Big Sky Film Grant fiscal year 2022 grant cycle opened on September 1, 2021 and will close November 1, 2021 at 11:59 p.m., MST.

Please share with any and all filmmakers you may know. Go direct to the Big Sky Film Grant page at MONTANAFILM.COM to learn how to apply.

Outdoor Recreation

Record Breaking Visitation' at Montana Parks Continues After Pandemic Year

Montana’s park system experienced a 44% increase in visitation during the first six months of 2021 compared to the same time in the pre-pandemic 2019.

The numbers continue to grow and continue to set records, Pat Doyle, marketing manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told The Center Square.

“Just for a little bit of context, our 2020 year, obviously a pandemic year, where we had record breaking visitation, we had almost an additional million people across our park system. And this year is a lot more of the same,” he said.

During the first half of 2021, an estimated 1.57 million people visited Montana’s state parks. Compared to last year, that was an 11.1% increase, according to the 2021 Midyear Montana State Parks Visitation Report. That was approximately 480,804 more visitors than in 2019.

Montana is a big state with a lot of world-class outdoor recreation across it, Doyle said. When residents had a lot of downtime and COVID restrictions, it invited a lot of people to explore their own state more than they have in the past, he said.

Everyone has outdoor recreation bucket lists no matter where they live, he said. The pandemic gave them an opportunity to explore places like someone from western Montana coming out to Makoshika State Park or Medicine Rocks, Doyle said, to explore different landscapes across the state.

“I think that one of the great things about our state park system is that it really tells the story of Montana from a lot of different perspectives, that [it] can be not just recreational but historical, cultural and from a lot of different perspectives from ghost towns to battlefields. I think it really gave people an opportunity to be more immersed in their state, where maybe vacations would have taken them out of state maybe to Washington or Oregon or Idaho,” he said.

The pandemic kept Montana residents in the state, and he said they found some gems they might not have discovered without that extra push. Read more from The Center Square here

Bears Seeking Food Sources with the Arrival of Fall; Residents Reminded to Secure Food Attractants

With the arrival of fall, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff are busy responding to bear conflicts and working with the public to prevent conflicts.

To date, most of the reported conflicts in northwest Montana have involved bears getting into unsecured garbage and livestock feed, hanging around homes feeding on green grass and clover, and killing small livestock, such as chickens and pigs. FWP staff work with landowners on electric fencing, loaning out bear-resistant garbage containers, and securing attractants with the goal of preventing conflicts.

In fall, bears are increasingly active in preparation for winter denning. FWP has received numerous reports of bears feeding on domestic fruit on residential properties, as well as serviceberries, chokecherries, hawthorn, and huckleberries. Numerous bears have been reported in Whitefish feeding on fruit trees, and FWP staff encourage residences to pick up fruit. A Facebook page named Flathead Fruit Gleaning works to connect residents who want to pick up fruit with those who need fruit picked up. Learn more here

Bears that gain rewards from human food sources can become food conditioned, which means they lose their natural foraging ability and pose an increased risk to human safety. Food rewards can also lead wildlife to become habituated to people, another increased risk to human safety. Both food conditioning and habituation often lead to euthanizing an animal for safety reasons.

Montana is bear country with populations of grizzly and black bears that frequent higher and lower elevations, especially river corridors. Preventing a conflict is easier than dealing with one.

  • Bear spray is a highly effective, non-lethal bear deterrent. Carry EPA-approved bear spray and know how to use it.

  • Never feed wildlife, especially bears. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose a threat to human safety. And it is illegal to feed bears in Montana.

  • Know your bears. It is important to know the difference between grizzly bears and black bears, whether you are hunting or hiking. 

  • Always keep a safe distance from wildlife. Never intentionally get close to a bear. 

  • Loud noise, such as banging pots and pans, using an air horn or your car alarm, or shouting, is a simple, effective short-term way to deter a bear on private property.

  • A properly constructed electrified fence is both safe for people, livestock and pets, and has proven effective at deterring bears from human-related resources such as beehives, garbage or small livestock.

Please report conflicts to one of the nearest FWP bear management specialists in your area. For a list of specialists, visit

Seeing a bear is not necessarily a reportable encounter or an emergency. Report encounters where the bear displayed aggressive or defensive behavior toward people, livestock or pets, or damaged property. In an emergency, phone 9-1-1. For livestock conflicts, contact USDA Wildlife Services.

Learn more about grizzly bears in Montana by visiting FWP.MT.GOV.  

Heritage/Cultural News

Awards Abound for Montana’s History Magazine

The Montana The Magazine of Western History published by the Montana Historical Society is being honored by the following national awards and recognition. 

  • The Forest History Society announced that Lee H. Whittlesey’s article “Abundance, Slaughter, and Resilience of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s Mammal Population: A View of the Historical Record, 1871-1885” (Spring 2020) has won the Theodore C. Blegen Award which recognizes the best scholarship in forest and conservation history published in a journal other than Environmental History.
  • Recognitions came from Western Writers of America in the way of a 2021 Finalist Spur Award for Gretchen E. Minton’s article “Shakespeare in Frontier and Territorial Montana, 1820-1889” (Summer 2020) and a 2020 Spur Award for Flannery Burke’s article “Worry U.S.A.: Dude Ranch Advertising Looks East, 1915-1945” (Summer 2019). The Spur for best western short nonfiction recognizes works published in magazines, periodicals and anthologies about events, persons, places, or developments related to the American West or early frontier.  
  • Last, but certainly not least, the magazine and authors David Beyreis and Tempe Javitz will be honored this fall at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Center’s award ceremony for their articles “`If you had fought bravely I would have sung for you:’ The Changing Roles of Cheyenne Women During Nineteenth-Century Plains Warfare” (Spring 2019) and “Transitions in the Changing West: The Photographic Legacy of Jessamine Spear Johnson” (Winter 2019), respectively. The Western Heritage Awards, presented by celebrity hosts at a black-tie event in Oklahoma, honors individuals who have made significant contributions to Western heritage through creative works in literature, music, television and film that share the great stories of the American West.

The magazine is proud of its authors for the hard work they devote to their research and writing. Montanans can be proud that our state history magazine continues to be recognized by these national organizations. 

Best Marketing Practices

Tread Lightly! and Glacier Country Tourism Partner to Promote Responsible Motorized Recreation

Tread Lightly!, a U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting responsible outdoor recreation through stewardship and educational programs today announced Glacier Country Tourism (GCT) its newest Official Partner.

As an Official Partner of Tread Lightly!, GCT’s support will help to ensure outdoor enthusiasts and visitors in Western Montana are reached through trail stewardship projects, recreation training and education campaigns. GCT’s goal is to leverage the resources of Tread Lightly! to advance its responsible travel initiative and mitigate the community impacts created by overuse and misuse of motorized recreation.

“Thank you to Glacier Country Tourism for bringing the Tread Lightly! message to their region,” said Matt Caldwell, Executive Director of Tread Lightly!. “We look forward to working together to address the pressing recreation impacts on public trails through stewardship efforts and by educating locals and visitors about responsible motorized use.”

Glacier Country Tourism represents 75 communities in eight counties in Western Montana, including iconic outdoors sites such as Glacier National Park, the Flathead Corridor and tribal lands in the area. GCT has committed to promoting responsible recreation to minimize impacts in the outdoors.

“Responsible recreation is crucial to protecting our treasured forests and trails in Montana,” said Racene Friede, President and CEO of Glacier Country Tourism. “Educating motorized users on Tread Lightly!’s trail ethic and principles will help keep these places accessible, healthy and beautiful for generations to come.”

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


MontanaAwesome Adventures To Experience Fall In Montana—With lots of room to roam and backdrops of incredible fall colors against mountaintops, fall in Montana is an outdoor lover's dream. Crowds dissipate, temperatures cool, and landscapes transform to a sea of crimson and gold. Those visiting can take in all the glory of fall in Montana with these awe-inspiring outdoor adventures. Read more from the Fairfield Sun Times here

WhitehallWhitehall Community Library Sets Up New Business Resource Center—The Whitehall Community Library is filled to the brim with information for business owners. But how can business owners access them during their busy workday?

Thanks to a grant given by Montana Libraries SPARK, the library opened a business resource center to help new and established owners find the information they need as quickly as possible.

"It’s a natural partnership because librarians love to research and the one thing business people don’t have is a lot of time to go looking up individual pieces of information," said Jeannie Ferriss.

The Montana State Library in partnership with Accelerate Montana Rural Innovation Initiative created Montana Libraries SPARK to “provide programming ideas and professional development opportunities for librarians in order to empower Montana's public libraries to support and assist business and economic development communities.” Read more from KXLF here

YellowstoneYellowstone Marks Down Busiest August on Record—This August was Yellowstone National Park’s busiest on record, officials announced Tuesday.

Officials logged just over 921,800 recreation visits to Yellowstone last month. The numbers exceeded the previous August record by a little less than 1%. The park’s second-busiest August was in 2017, when a total solar eclipse drew droves of visitors to the park.

So far this year, park staff have recorded just under 3.59 million recreation visits to Yellowstone, officials wrote. That’s 40% more visits than were counted in 2020 by this time of the year and 15% more visits than were counted in 2019 by this time.

This summer’s record-breaking August came after a record-breaking July, the park’s busiest month of all time when recreation visits for the first time in a single month exceeded 1 million. Read more from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle here


Destination Analysts Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of September 6

Although nearly twice as many Americans headed out for Labor Day weekend trips this year than in 2020, summer 2021 ends in a quite a different place than it started: Since the Fourth of July, Americans’ sense of normalcy and optimism about the pandemic’s course has fallen by half.

Key Findings

  • Far more Americans headed out for Labor Day weekend trips this year compared to last. Nearly a quarter of Americans said they would be traveling for the holiday, almost doubling 2020 levels (24.0% vs. 13.0%).
  • Labor Day travel would have been stronger had not Americans been grappling with the disruption of the Delta variant. Among the American travelers who did not head out on Labor Day trips, 13.0% of this group said they had cancelled trip plans specifically because of Delta variant concerns.
  • Summer ends in a quite a different place than it started: Since the Fourth of July, Americans’ sense of normalcy and optimism about the pandemic’s course has fallen by half. Over half (51.2%) of American travelers expect the pandemic to get worse in the next month; comparatively only 16.2% felt this way heading into the Fourth of July holiday just two months ago. When asked how close to “normal” the U.S. is in terms of leisure activity, just 21.6% of American travelers felt that the U.S. was at least 70% back to normal, down from 42.7% at the beginning of July. Those Millennial age or younger were much likelier than Baby Boomer-age travelers to feel normalcy (27.7% vs 15.1%). Meanwhile, those in the South were less likely to feel normalcy (16.1%).
  • Although Americans generally continue to see travel and leisure activities as safe rather than unsafe, air travel, indoor attractions and restaurants have suffered notable declines in safety perceptions. Since early July, perceptions of commercial air travel as safe has fallen to 37.1% from 51.1%, while indoor attractions (like museums and aquariums) have declined to 44.4% from 59.9%, and dining in a restaurants to 52.8% from 67.7%.
  • Although Americans largely remain excited to travel in the next 12 months, expectations to travel for leisure in the next 3 months has declined. In total, 71.4% said they have a high level of excitement. However, compared to just two weeks ago, fewer Americans now report planned overnight leisure trips (52.6% down from 56.7% two weeks ago) and leisure day trips (43.1% down from 51.4%) in that timeframe.
  • The appeal of out-of-state business trips and convention travel has improved among employed American travelers relative to early this year. Now 45.7% of employed American travelers says they would be happy to take an out-of-state business trip in the next 6 months, up from 39.5% the week of April 12th. Also on the rise since April is the appeal of attending in-person group meetings. Now 40.4% would be happy to do so, up from 37.9% the week of April 12th. In fact, one-in-five employed American travelers now plans to attend a convention, conference or other group meeting sometime in the remainder of 2021, with October appearing to be the peak month for this trip type. However, the Delta variant is disrupting group meetings travel–16.8% say they have cancelled an upcoming trip to attend an in-person conference/convention and another 6.2% say they are currently considering cancelling such upcoming trips.
  • The welcoming reputation of destinations remains important to a majority of American travelers (68.0% consider it important or very important), but perceptions of specific destinations as being unwelcoming appears to be shifting. Of the 17.2% of American travelers who say they can name a destination that does not have a welcoming atmosphere for people like themselves, far more of this group are now naming New York, Texas and Hawaii as places that they feel are unwelcoming.
  • After a recent period of decline, Americans’ travel marketability index scores have held at the same levels for the last two weeks, offering hope for a turnaround. In particular, Millennial and Gen Z age travelers are likeliest to be in a ready-to-travel mindset right now (77.1%). They are also likelier to be supportive of pandemic protocols like indoor mask requirements right now (72.1%)

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here.

Other News

Gov. Gianforte Invests $6 Million to Strengthen Montana’s Workforce

Governor Greg Gianforte today announced the investment of $6 million to strengthen Montana’s workforce and provide job training to Montanans, particularly to individuals with disabilities and those who have become unemployed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Helping Montanans acquire the in-demand skills needed to fill good-paying jobs is a top priority," Gov. Gianforte said. "These investments will help more Montana workers access skills training programs, helping them enter or reenter the workforce or boost their careers to the next level while alleviating our workforce shortage in critical industries."

Gov. Gianforte approved the use of $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Employment Engagement Program, which augments the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ (DPHHS) Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services.

DPPHS VR provides services to individuals with disabilities to obtain, regain, maintain, and advance in employment. The funding approved will supplement existing VR staff by temporarily adding 10 additional full-time rehabilitation counselors, opening the door to approximately 1,000 additional individuals with disabilities to participate in the program. Approximately 1,300 individuals are on the program’s waitlist. Read full press release here

Glacier Park Unveils Plan to Phase Out Aerial Sightseeing Tours

Despite more than two decades of public pressure and a statutory mandate to restrict scenic air tours above Glacier National Park, the federal agencies charged with placing conditions on the intrusive overflights have remained deadlocked. Until now.

This month, the National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began seeking public feedback on a draft Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) proposed for Glacier, including a provision “to phase out commercial air tours through attrition,” according to park officials, who added that the phaseout is consistent with Glacier’s General Management Plan and “has been and remains a priority management objective for the park.”

The proposed plan would authorize the three remaining commercial aerial sightseeing tour operators in Glacier National Park to provide up to 144 air tours per year on defined routes, amounting to the three-year average total spanning 2017-2019, according to the park’s draft ATMP. The number of air tours allowed under the new draft plan represents a dramatic reduction from the 891 annual flights currently allowed over Glacier.

In order to phase out the air tours permanently and reduce the strain on noise-sensitive resources, as well as on the visitor experience, the agencies will not consider applications from “new entrant operators” and will not authorize commercial air tours by a successor to any of the three existing operators. Read more from the Flathead Beacon here

Other Events/Dates to Note

American Trails Presents Advancing Trails Webinar Series—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:

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 your 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.

September 27-30, 2021The 2021 NAISMA (North American Invasive Species Management Association) Annual Conference (In-person and virtual options to attend)—The NAISMA Board of Directors, Staff, and Planning Committee are excited for this year’s opportunity to bring a high quality agenda, professional development, and networking opportunities to invasive species managers in North America and beyond.

This year’s conference is a great deal for anyone who does invasive species management, research, policy, or outreach and education who are looking for an affordable professional development opportunity. For more information or to register, click here

October 17–20, 2021MLHA (Montana Lodging & Hospitality Association) Fall Tourism Conference and Trade Show (Whitefish)—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. For more information or to register, click here