Lewis and Clark Festival in Great Falls this weekend
The 30th annual Lewis and Clark Festival returns to Great Falls this weekend.
The event, hosted by the Lewis and Clark Foundation, runs June 14-16 and includes professional Native American dancers, a black powder rifle demonstration, a Bluegrass concert and a bus tour of the Great Falls Portage, among other activities.
Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, along with Sacagawea and the Corps of Discovery, spent nearly a month in the Great Falls area in June of 1805, having encountered one of their biggest obstacles – the series of waterfalls known as the Great Falls of the Missouri. The Lewis and Clark Festival re-creates the adventures and hardships of life in the 1805 frontier encountered by the Corps of Discovery.
Friday: Bluegrass in the Park
The festival kicks off with a Bluegrass concert at the Gibson Park Band Shell, with two Bluegrass bands. Gates open at 5 p.m., with the concert beginning 6 p.m. featuring the Lazy Owl String Band from Bozeman, and The Two Tracks from Sheridan, Wyoming. Tickets are $20 from Mansfield Box Office (406-455-8514), and online or at the gate. Children 12 and under are free with an adult paid admission. Coolers and pets are not allowed, and organizers suggest concert goers bring a blanket or chair for seating. The event features several microbrews, plus domestics and wine, along with food concessions.
Saturday: Lewis & Clark Festival activities
Thanks to sponsors such as US Bank and the Portage Route Chapter, Saturday’s festival events are free to the public, with a jam-packed day filled with fun family activities. The Honor Guard will kick off the day at 9:45 a.m. with a black powder salute among the shade trees and open space of Gibson Park.
A highlight of the 2019 Festival is Native American dancers and drummers from the Blackfeet Tribe performing at noon and 3 p.m. Several musicians and groups will also perform during the day in the band shell, including the Lucky Valentines, Peter and Molly Wilson, Jeni Dodd, and Jeff Christensen.
Children’s activities throughout the day include story-telling with Buddy, a live Newfoundland dog representing Seaman, the dog owned by Meriwether Lewis. Lewis purchased Seaman for $20, a large sum of money 200 years ago. He served as a good hunter and guard dog during the expedition.
Children are also encouraged to bring a trade good and hone their bartering skills with a seasoned trader, at the trade blanket.
The nationally renowned Lewis and Clark Honor Guard will fire many of the weapons used by the explorers, throughout the day. The Honor Guard will fire off all of the reproduction firearms in a spectacular Saturday afternoon program at 4 p.m., including detailed explanations of where they were acquired, and their use during the expedition. All of the firearms will be loaded and fired with a blank charge. As a staple of military units and a necessity of survival, firearms were essential for the Corps of Discovery.
The Lewis and Clark Honor Guard will give presentations in period dress every hour, in the Council Lodge Presentation Area. Two conjoined tipis form the “stage” for each program, as was the historical tradition among some of the Native tribes in the area. A few of the programs include firestarting, the medicine used and practiced on the Expedition, navigation, fishing, and cooking. Casey Wiley will also demonstrate how to skin a beaver. Another popular venue is the Native lodge encampment, with Native tipis.
Several fine arts and crafts vendors will exhibit their trades. The area will feature many unique items for sale. Food concessions will also cater to the crowds, featuring Indian tacos, barbecue, and other food items.
Sunday: Tour of the Great Falls Portage
The tour of the Great Falls Portage provides an opportunity to take a first-hand look at the actual portage route around the falls, the details of the portage, and why the Corps selected the route they took.
Guided by Field Scholar Austin Haney, the tour will explore the Lower Portage Visitor Site, Upper Portage Overlook, the Great Falls of the Missouri and Ryan Dam Island, Rainbow Falls and Dam overlook, Black Eagle Dam and Falls, and a view of the area where the Corps crossed 10th Avenue South in Great Falls.
The tour takes place by Motor Coach, and includes a box lunch at Ryan Dam Island. Some walking is involved, especially on Ryan Dam Island. Participants should meet at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center parking lot at 9:45 a.m. June 16, with departure scheduled for 10 a.m. sharp, returning around 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person, $135/couple, and $60 for Lewis and Clark Foundation members. Advance registration is required. For tickets and additional information, call 406-452-5661, or 406-799-8183.
Hours of the Lewis and Clark Festival are 5-10 p.m. June 14, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 15.
Tickets for the bluegrass concert are available at ticketing.greatfallsmt.net. For more information on all of the Lewis and Clark Festival activities, visit the Lewis and Clark Foundation website or call 406-452-5661.