By Molly Priddy, 8-12-11
||Caption: Director Hank Handford, left, leads the Flathead Valley Community Band in a march during their performance at last year's Huckleberry Days Arts Festival in Whitefish. - File Photo by Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
Each summer, you can find them everywhere: in milkshakes, in chocolate, in pies, in lotion and at roadside stands. This weekend, anyone looking for Northwest Montana’s ever-popular huckleberries can find a party just for them in Whitefish.
Beginning on Aug. 12, the 22nd annual Huckleberry Days Arts Festival takes place in Whitefish’s Depot Park. It’s a weekend-long celebration of art and one of Montana’s favorite fruits, complete with food vendors, kids activities and a huckleberry bake-off competition.
“There’s just something for everybody,” Sarah Stewart, business manager for the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, said.
The Chamber is hosting the event, which means free admission for the public, Stewart said.
Among the activities throughout the weekend, the huckleberry dessert bake-off stands out as a true homage to the tiny fruit’s versatility. It’s the second year for the contest, which pits creative cooks and bakers of all types against one another for a $100 first prize, a ribbon and bragging rights.
There are two different divisions for the bake-off, Stewart noted. Professional chefs and bakers compete against one another, while amateurs square off in another competition.
But Stewart warned participants not to be fooled by non-professional status: “Actually, some of the non-commercial [entries] were just as delicious,” she said.
Entries must contain some form of huckleberry, whether it’s jam, fresh berries or frozen. The desserts will be judged on texture, appearance, taste and originality. There is a $5 fee for each dessert entered, Stewart said, and all entries must be submitted with a completed form between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13.
Judging begins on Saturday morning at 10:45 a.m. For entry forms and rules, visit http://www.whitefishchamber.org
As the event name denotes, the weekend festival is also dedicated to the arts, and every artist selling their wares is vetted before the event, Stewart said. The artists’ work has to be homemade to be allowed in the show.
“We review for quality and for the fact that it’s handmade by the artist,” Stewart said.
The art, which will also be for sale, ranges from lower-priced items to high-end pieces, she said. Some of the fare will include paintings, soaps, copper art, hammocks, watercolors, photography, jewelry, beads, leatherwork, metal works and garden art, among others.
There will be other huckleberry-inspired events throughout the weekend, including the Hidden Huckleberry competition for kids. In this challenge, the young participants must use their faces to find the tiny huck hidden at the bottom of a pie pan otherwise filled with whipped cream, Stewart said.
That competition takes place on Whitefish’s City Beach at 1 p.m. There is also a Huckleberry Days Flea Market at the Mountain Mall parking lot from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which will include a kids’ carnival and Kansas City barbecue.
Starting at 3 p.m., participants can head to the Armory softball fields for the Stumptown Summer Hoedown, which means live music, food and beer until 11 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.whitedogproductions.org
On Sunday, check out the Hugh Rogers WAG Park Summer Picnic & WAGminster Dog Show from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. There will be free hot dogs and beverages provided.
The weekend promises to be a family friendly, community event, Stewart said. It will also help benefit Whitefish’s businesses, she said, since the event naturally flows downtown.
“It’s something for tourists to do and make it a destination. They’ll come [to Depot Park] but won’t stay for three solid days there,” Stewart said. “Tourists are going to be milling around downtown and exploring.”
Stewart said Whitefish businesses have been notified about the event, and are ready for the huckleberry fans. For example, the Great Northern Brewing Company will have huckleberry lager on tap all weekend.
For more information on the Huckleberry Days Arts Festival, visit www.whitefishchamber.org
or call 406-862-3501. Depot Park is located on Central Avenue and Railway Street in downtown Whitefish.
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