Friday Flash 5/6/22

Updated banner
Farmer's Market

Reminders/Updates for Our Tourism Partners

Please note: There will be no Friday Flash on May 13. 

Save the Dates...

  • Tourism Advisory Council (TAC) Meetings—The Council meetings and all committee meetings are open to the public. Information about the Council and upcoming or past meetings can be found at
    • June 12, 2022TAC Retreat (Lewistown)
    • June 13-14, 2022—Full Council Meeting (Lewistown)
    • October 3, 2022Full Council Meeting 
    • February 6, 2023Full Council Meeting 
  • July 20, 2022—DMO 4th quarter FY22 financial reports due

Eastern Montana Tourism Initiative

We Need Your Input!

As you may recall, in 2019, we launched the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative (EMI) as a way to improve visitor economy opportunities in Eastern Montana. The community-led initiative to encourage long-term tourism and economic development in Eastern Montana communities is a collaborative effort ​between the state and local stakeholders.

This initiative comes with a commitment of funding and resource allocations ​from the Brand MT team at Montana's Department of Commerce. In 2020, these efforts were halted due to the pandemic, but we are ​now ready to move forward with this program and need your help. Please take a moment to fill out the survey using the link below.

For those of you in one of the five EMI zones, we'd love to hear from you. We value your input which will help us define our strategy for this next phase of the EMI program which may include marketing, grants and community based meetings in the near future. 

Feel to share the survey link with anyone in your community who may be interested in the EMI program. Please reply to the survey by Friday, May 13!

Made in Montana

Made in Montana Members in the News

This week, we are happy to share these stories that highlight Made in Montana members Anthem Snacks, Nellie Nicole Designs, and RightOnTrek

Anthem Snacks

Montana Veteran's Company Receives Statewide Award—Anthem Snacks in Gallatin Gateway is the Small Business Administration’s 2022 Montana Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year.

Former Green Beret Nate Kouhana started the business two years ago. Anthem is a meat snack company selling beef jerky, with 10% of profits going to veterans, first responders and nonprofit organizations.

“To have purpose in what you do and really feel like more than just making money, doing jerky and stuff like that. I get the most joy out of actually giving back to a lot of these great nonprofit organizations,” Kouhana said. “We just happen to have some really good ones locally. We work with Warriors and Quiet Water, Heroes and Horses, and obviously Big Sky Bravery.”

In 2020, they made $70,000 in sales, and last year they reached over $1 million. Kouhana says the goal over the next year is to find a retail space, hire more veterans and open a local fulfillment center in Bozeman. Read more from NBC Montana here

Nellie Nicole

Hive Competition Gives Special Opportunity to Billings Student Entrepreneurs—High school entrepreneurs pitched their ideas in a competition called the Hive at the Babcock Theater on Wednesday.

It was a chance to inspire students to present their companies and also to encourage small businesses in Billings. Danielle Brower, a student at Skyview, won the competition.

"Oh my hands were queasy and my legs were shaking so much, " Brower said. "I was so nervous, but I think it went well." Brower has been running Nelly Nicole Designs for two years.

"I created this business using my art tactics and a solution to a problem of losing your lip balm holder all the time," Brower said. "So I created lip balm holders and eco-friendly and sustainable stickers." Read more from KTVQ here


RightOnTrek Begins Automated Gear Rental Operation—
Every successful adventure rests on four basic elements: a sense of discovery, a bit of advanced planning, food and gear. Victoria Livschitz founded her company, RightOnTrek, to streamline all four of those components and last week unveiled a new method for tackling the latter two.

RightOnTrek, which Livschitz describes as having the ultimate goal of becoming the “Grand Central Station” for planning all stages of outdoor adventures, unveiled its Wilderness Edge (or “Edge”) program, an automated self-service gear rental and meal-sales outfitter.

“You know that anywhere you go you can rent a car to get around,” Livshitz said at the April 27 ribbon cutting ceremony for Wilderness Edge. “You should be able to assume that anywhere you go, you can rent your adventure gear.”

The program, which launched on May 1, currently consists of a boxcar filled with gear lockers along with a vending-machine stocked with RightOnTrek backpacking meals. The company recently broke ground on a wedge-shaped building on Conn Road in Columbia Falls that will be the permanent home for Wilderness Edge.

There are two ways to utilize the service. Last-minute essentials like meals can be purchased on site, while full complements of backpacking or car camping gear can be reserved online and picked up at the automated storage lockers, then returned at the end of the trip. The 24-hour, self-service style features are intended to accommodate late-night flights into the airport and spontaneous adventurers. Read more from the Flathead Beacon here

Montana Film Office


Big Sky Film Grant Program Accepting Submissions to the FY2023 Cycle! 

The Big Sky Film Grant program is accepting submissions to our Fiscal Year 2023 cycle which opened April 1, 2022. Applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. (MST) on Thursday, June 30.

Established in 2013, the Big Sky Film Grant Program builds and supports partnerships with filmmakers and production companies with the intention to create Montana film industry jobs. The Program serves as an advocate for Montana filmmakers, crew, and service industries. To qualify, a production must shoot at least 50% of principal photography in Montana.

For the FY23 cycle, the program will be awarding $500,000 in grant funds to selected productions across 3 categories:

  • Feature Film & TV: Awarded to a feature-length film, TV series, or limited series that has a Montana spend of $350K or more.
  • Resident Filmmaker: Awarded to a feature-length project that is produced by a Montana resident filmmaker that has a validated credit as a Producer, Director, or primary Director of Photography.
  • Short-Form Content: Awarded to filmmakers who create short-form content. Examples include short narrative, pilots, documentary, animation, and series 60 minutes or less with budgets under $350K per episode.

To determine if you are right for the program and what to expect in the application – read the program rules and requirements HERE.

To apply, click appropriate category link on our website HERE. Links to the applications are live only during the call for submissions timeframe. The Montana Film Office uses Submittable (cloud-based application manager) for applying to the program.

For inquiries and assistance about the program, contact Stacey Zyliak, Media Incentive & Grant Specialist at or 406.841.2883.

International Travel Trade Program

Great American West Represented at Nordic Training Mission

Last week Kim Birrell represented Montana on the Nordic training mission along with the other Great American West states of Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota. They travelled to four countries during the course of the five-day mission, visiting Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

The group of five states hosted a media breakfast at the US Embassy in Helsinki as well as three evening training events for trade, and visited tour operator offices to offer in-depth itinerary development and sales staff training. Danish tour operators report their clients are showing great interest in outbound travel and are actively booking trips, while travel from Finland is slower to recover, partly due to the situation with Ukraine and Russia, their immediate neighbor to the east.

The Nordic countries spend more money on average than European tourists during their vacations. Most get between 25 to 30 paid vacation days per year, plus holidays, and travel independently on fly-drive vacations lasting 2-3 weeks. Because they haven’t been able to travel over the past few years, they have saved up funds for travel and are willing to spend more for bucket list experiences. Nordic travelers place a high value on sustainability and the environment and love exploring nature and doing outdoor activities. They also prefer authentic local experiences, so Montana and our Great American West region are a perfect fit.

Outdoor Recreation

Water Safety

May is Water Safety Month and with summer around the corner, enjoying time outside includes being water-safe. Recreate Responsibly is excited to officially launch the Recreate Responsibly Water Safety Edition page, along with their new website. 

These safety-focused tips are for anyone that recreates in, on, and around water. The Water Safety Edition page is full of incredible resources for resource managers, program operators, community/retail spaces, and recreators alike.

So grab your life jacket, share these guidelines with your community, tag #RecreateResponsibly and enjoy your time on the water!

Access the full Water Safety Edition communications toolkit here

Montana State Parks and Recreation Board to Meet May 13

The Montana State Parks and Recreation Board will meet at the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1 Headquarters in Kalispell and virtually via Zoom on May 13, at 9:00 a.m.

Interested members of the public may comment via ZOOM, in person or at any FWP regional office. If you are interested in commenting via ZOOM, you must register online at the Fish, Wildlife & Parks website. Registration will open at noon on May 6 and close at noon on May 12. The public will also be able to comment in person at the meeting or at any FWP regional office.

To listen to the meeting and for information on how to join the meeting via Zoom, click on the State Parks and Recreation Board’s webpage prior to the meeting start time.

The board will take action on the following item:

  • Smith River State Park and River Corridor Biennial Rule
  • The board will also hear updates on the following items:
  • Fish, Wildlife & Parks Reorganization and Planning Update
  • Parks Fee Schedule Update
  • Hell Creek State Park Update

FWP ensures its meetings are fully accessible to those with special needs. To request arrangements, call the FWP Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division at 406.444.3750. To read full announcement, click here

Montana Trail Stewardship Grant Program (MTSGP) Seeks Public Comment on Recommended 2022 Awards

After internal review and review by the State Trail Advisory Committee, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks recommends 30 applicants receive funding worth $1.44 million through the Montana Trail Stewardship Grant Program (MTSGP) for projects in 2022. Eligible projects include development and rehabilitation work on urban, rural, and backcountry trails; construction of community trails; and snowmobile and cross-country ski trail maintenance and grooming operations.

The MTSGP applications received this year came from a variety of applicants, including federal and state agencies, towns, cities, counties, recreational clubs, and nonprofit organizations.
Originally, FWP expected to be able to award just shy of $1.04 million using the portion of Montana’s light motor vehicle registration fee dedicated to MTSGP. However, additional revenue earmarked for the program from the taxation of recreational marijuana pushed that to $1.44 million in proposed awards.

A list of the proposed grant recipients is available here. Comments will be accepted online here;  in writing, sent to P.O. Box 200701 Helena, MT 59620-0701; and by email to: Comments must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on May 26, 2022. 

Heritage & Culture


Montana Historical Society Public Program Series


The Montana Constitution at Fifty—Montana’s Constitution’s 50th anniversary will be celebrated on Thursdays in May at the Montana Historical Society at 225 N. Roberts in Helena. 

Speakers at MTHS will examine the history, legacy, and impact of the 1972 Montana State Constitution. All of the presentations run from 4:30-5:30 p.m. in the MTHS auditorium and will be live-streamed on the Can't attend in person? These programs will be livestreamed on the MHS YouTube Channel and you can also find archived recordings of previous programs there. 

The May 5 program “Rewriting Montana’s Constitution: How it Happened” featured retired journalist Chuck Johnson, who was a 23-year-old reporter covering the Constitutional Convention, fondly termed “the ConCon.” In this program, Johnson explored how the changing political currents in the 1960s and plenty of advance studies paved the way for the convention to succeed. Delegates to the 1972 Constitutional Convention sat alphabetically and worked across party lines to hammer out the new state charter, which has won praise from experts and remains in place today. 

The remaining May programs are listed below: 

  • May 12 (4:30 p.m.): “Indian Education and the 1972 Montana Constitution”—A panel discussion with Carol Juneau and Joyce Silverthorne, moderated by Mike Jetty. In 1972, Montana citizens rewrote the state’s Constitution and at this historic gathering they included a unique Constitutional mandate to teach about American Indians.
  • May 19 (4:30 p.m.): “Women and the 1972 Constitution”—In 1969, members of the Montana League of Women Voters identified constitutional reform as the most critical step toward more open, efficient, and democratic state government. League members successfully campaigned to call a constitutional convention, served, alongside other women, as convention delegates, and were vital in the campaign to adopt the new constitution. Diane Sands will discuss the women who served as constitutional convention delegates and how the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women, and other women’s organizations helped shape the new constitution and assured its adoption.
  • May 26 (4:30 p.m.): "Before and After the Montana Constitution of 1972"—A panel discussion with Bob Brown and Dorothy Bradley, moderated by Evan Barrett. Bob Brown and Dorothy Bradley served in the Montana state legislature before and after the passage of the 1972 Constitution. Constitutional historian Evan Barrett will moderate a panel discussion with Bradley and Brown, as they discuss their memories of how constitutional provisions surrounding the public’s right to know and participate in governmental proceedings transformed Montana politics. Brown and Bradley will also talk about work the legislature engaged in to align Montana law to the new constitutional mandates, including the passage of laws designed to implement the new constitution’s promise of “equal protection,” and the prohibition of discrimination based on “race, color, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas.””

For more information on these and other programs, visit the Montana Historical Society website.

Heritage Center

Montana Heritage Center—Topping Out Ceremony May 17

The Montana Historical Society is hosting a “Topping Out” ceremony at 1 p.m. on May 17 in celebration of the culmination of the steel erection portion of the Montana Heritage Center in Helena.

Join MTHS Director Molly Kruckenberg and featured guests Gov. Greg Gianforte, Contractor Erik Sletten, and Dennis and Phyllis Washington, whose foundation donated $25 million for the project.

“Topping out ceremonies are held to celebrate a major milestone in a construction project,” Kruckenberg said. “The steel beams, which will be put in place during the ceremony, will signify that the highest point of the new Montana Heritage Center has been constructed.
“The heritage center will be home to an expanded Montana Historical Society, in which visitors can learn about Montana’s history, stretching back 14,000 years to the days of the wooly mammoths, through the present day.”

Often the workers, students, and others connected to the project are given the opportunity to sign the topping out beams to be part of history. Hundreds of students at 15 schools across Montana put their signatures on the beam during the past two weeks because not only are they learning about Montana history in class, they also are living in historic times. Some may even make history!

Topping Out ceremonies typically include putting a tree and a flag on the top beam, often hoisted to signal those below that the framing was complete. “Sletten Construction, who is building the new heritage center, traditionally puts a small evergreen tree on top of the steel to symbolize the birth of a new building, and also as a good luck reminder to protect the workers from accidents,” said Colter Dahlstrom, Sletten’s project manager.

The new 66,000-square-foot addition will have expanded galleries, so visitors see more of the art and artifacts held in trust by the Montana Historical Society, as part of its goal to preserve, educate and connect with Montana residents and visitors. It also will include meeting rooms for up to 300 people and a public café.

As part of the $81 million project, the MTHS’ current 70-year-old building also will be renovated with new classrooms and expanded galleries and research center. For more information, contact Eve Byron, MTHS Public Information Officer, at 406.444.6843 or

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


MissoulaAirport Preps for Record High Travel Numbers with Terminal Expansion—As tourism season approaches, the Missoula Airport expects some busy months ahead all while they are wrapping up construction for the new terminal.

For this calendar year, the Missoula Airport expects to hit its 2019 record high travel numbers, with 453,000 people expected to fly out of the airport.

Staff will be moving everything including their beloved bear statue into the new building.

Airport Director Brian Ellestad confirms they're fully staffed for the tourism rush, however, just like any other airport, they must work alongside multiple agencies to bring in as much help as they can, even if it presents some challenges.

"Part of it is we don't have control over airline staffing or TSA staffing. We don't do the hiring we mainly have control over our own airfield, even the control tower, we don't have control over their staff we are our own separate entity just like a small city,” said Ellestad.

You're still asked to remain patient during this transition with people new to the job and with the airport relocating services for tourists, some of which may be outside, temporarily. Read more from Montana Right Now here

Visit Southeast MontanaVisit Southeast Montana Highlights Local Culinary Ingenuity—As the summer tourism season approaches, Visit Southeast Montana is launching a new visitor attraction that's sure to pique the curiosities and appetites of foodies looking for a true taste of Montana-the Southeast Montana Burger Trail.

With twenty-four locations across the region, the Southeast Montana Burger Trail boasts burgers as unique as the communities themselves. From the unexpected "Mango Burger" at June's Bungalow in Colstrip, to the branded-literally-"Wibaux Burger" at Los Vaqueros in Wibaux, to the spicy "Diego" at The Grand in Roundup, each burger has a story. The trail pulls them all together and guides burger connoisseurs along a tasty route.

"I grew up in a small town myself, and I know that the best food is often served in the most unlikely places-it's a secret the locals know well," said Brenda Maas, director of marketing for Visit Southeast Montana. We strive to move visitors off the Interstate, into our rural communities. As visitors drive past thousands of acres of ranches and farmlands, we're inviting them into our restaurants for a burger." Maas and her teammate, Cassie Solberg, ate their way across the region and personally sampled all 24 burgers while meeting with the owners and operators of each establishment. Read more from the Ekalaka Eagle here


Destination Analysts: The State of the American Traveler in May 2022—Inflation-Induced Considerations

Although their high enthusiasm and commitment to travel remains intact, gas prices and inflation have a number of American travelers predicting they will make some adjustments to their upcoming trips.

The Impact of Inflation, Gas Prices & Other Economic Factors on Travel

  • Many Americans seem to feel economic headwinds are inevitable. Right now, 59.0% of American travelers believe it is likely an economic recession will begin in the U.S. this year. Just 27.8% believe inflation will weaken this year and just 24.2% believe the U.S. will experience strong economic growth.
  • Inflation in consumer prices has led 23.2% of American travelers to cancel an upcoming trip, while 38.3% of American travelers agree that high prices have kept them from traveling in the past month.
  • If gasoline prices don’t come down, 58.0% of American travelers predict they will be taking fewer road trips this Spring and Summer, and 60.4% predict they will be staying closer to home on their road trips.
  • Fewer American travelers are now saying that luxury travel experiences are important to their leisure trips (35.6% down from 40.0% last month). While the average reported leisure travel budget for the next 12 months is at $3,857, this is still down from February, when it was at $4,283.
  • Americans feeling that the present is a good time to spend on travel is at 31.8%, a 10-point decline since the start of the year.
  • Nevertheless, Americans are still prioritizing their leisure travel. Nearly 90% have trips planned—3.0 on average. And despite the economic concerns, 60.6% continue to say their leisure travel is a high priority in their budget for the next 3 months. Americans recorded another record level of excitement about their leisure travel, as well. Over 80% did some trip dreaming and planning just in the last week alone.
  • While down slightly from the start of the year, many Americans also continue to feel optimistic about their financial future. 42.4% believe they will be better off financially next year compared to now.

Expectations for the Pandemic

  • More than half of American travelers—and over 60% of those Millennial or Gen Z age—feel largely that there is normalcy, a 20+ point climb from the start of the year.
  • Now only one-third of American travelers feel COVID will have a meaningful impact on their travel experiences, and fewer than one-in-five recent travelers felt pandemic anxiety on their last trip.
  • Interestingly, after more than two years of COVID-19, American travelers do reveal a wariness about the pandemic’s future. Over 45% of American travelers feel it’s likely that a dangerous new variant of COVID-19 will emerge in the U.S. in the remainder of this year. In addition, those that feel the pandemic situation will get worse in the next month has more than doubled over the last several weeks—to 21.5% from 8.7%. However, this wariness has not currently impacted their excitement for travel nor their confidence in their ability to travel safely.

The State of Business Travel

  • Nearly two-thirds of American travelers feel it’s likely companies will require more employees to return to the office in the remainder of the year. However, only 36.5% of American travelers expect that business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, as 64.7% believe that virtual meetings will continue to replace many in-person meetings.
  • Business travelers are certainly on the road, though. Over half of business travelers will take a business trip in the next 3 months—1.3 of these trips on average.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here. If you are interested in attending their monthly webinars, click here

Funding Resources

National Forest Foundation 2022 Matching Awards Program Nationwide Grant Opportunity

Deadline: June 22, 2022

The National Forest Foundation (NFF) is pleased to announce the that it is currently soliciting proposals for its Matching Awards Program (MAP). MAP is a national, competitive grant program that provides federal funds for on-the-ground projects benefiting America's National Forests and Grasslands. 

The NFF will hold an informational webinar about the MAP on Wednesday, May 25. Click here for more information on the grant program to register for the webinar. 

Other Events/Dates to Note

May 19, 2022 (1:00-2:30 p.m. MST)National Extension Tourism (NET) Hospitality and Customer Service Training (Virtual)—Learn how four state Extension programs successfully use four different models of customer service trainings to generate greater economic impacts in their states’ economies.

The webinar will feature panelists sharing their state’s customer service program, plus opportunity for participants to ask questions about these programs. 

Panelists include:

  • Miles Phillips, Oregon State University
  • Cheryl Burkhart-Kniesel, University of Nebraska
  • Courtney Suess-Raeisinafchi, Texas A&M University
  • Diane Van Wyngarden, Iowa State University

For more information or to register, click here

May 23-24, 2022Rural Placemaking Conference (Virtual)—In partnership with USDA Rural Development, University of Kentucky is hosting the 2022 Rural Placemaking Conference May 23rd to 24th. Who is the audience? Extension specialists, agents, non-profits, and local communities.

Placemaking is a collaborative process among public, private, philanthropic and community partners to strategically improve the social, cultural, and economic structure of a community. The 2022 Rural Placemaking Conference aims to showcase effective placemaking strategies for rural areas, introduce attendees to placemaking resources and tools, and connect them to placemaking experts and potential funders. The 2022 Rural Placemaking Conference will offer online sessions to highlight these topics:

  • Initiating Place
  •  Public Spaces & Gathering Places
  • Community Cultural Planning & Assessments
  • Cross-Sector Engagement

Attend this rural placemaking conference on May 23-24 to find out what that means for you and your community! Learn more and register here

May 24-26, 2022—MEDA Spring Conference (Anaconda)—The conference will be a historic one as we will be hosted in part by our first Executive Director. We will spend two days talking about tools to help aid in our work and elect open board seats. Our evenings will be hands-on tours of Anaconda to see the programs in action. For more information or to register, click here

American Trails Presents Advancing Trails Webinar Series—American Trails brings agencies, trail builders, advocates, and volunteers the latest state-of-the-art information on all aspects of trails and greenways. 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 a specific webinar link below. 

American Trails webinars typically last an hour and a half and includes at least 15 minutes for Q&A at the end. All webinars are recorded and can be downloaded to view at your convenience. You can access them here

July 26-28, 2022Western Governors' Association (WGA) Annual Meeting (Coeur d'Alene, ID)—The two-day event, hosted by Idaho Governor and WGA Chair Brad Little, will feature the Western Governors and their special guests in public conversations about western drought, cross-boundary land management, cybersecurity, clean energy, broadband deployment and telehealth expansion. The in-person gathering at The Coeur d’Alene Resort will comply with state and local requirements on issues such as meeting size limitations, mask usage and social distancing. For more information, click here.