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Arlee gets early start on holiday activities

ARLEE – The holiday season kicked off on a snowy Saturday morning last week as the third annual Arlee Bazaar began.

Paula Wofford, one of the event coordinators, said Christmas shopping in early November might be a bit too early for some, but the Arlee Brown Building Committee hosting the event was trying to find a time when people might be less busy.

“We wanted to do this earlier so we wouldn’t have to compete with bigger bazaars and other events,” she said.

Wofford said the Brown Building Committee and volunteers organized the event to give people a place to sell their items and to raise money for building operating costs with a pie and fry bread lunch, but the volunteers couldn’t plan for everything.

“We didn’t count on the snow this early in the year,” she said. Ankle deep snow was on the lawn outside the building and the roads were covered in ice and slush. 

Twenty-three vendors set up tables with items like art, hats, jewelry, and baked goods, and even more vendors were across the street at the Hangin’ Art Gallery.

“We had so many vendors signed up this year that we would have had to turn some away, but the gallery gave them space,” she said.

One of the vendors in the Brown Building didn’t know if she was going to make it to the bazaar. Angie Marquez was driving from St. Ignatius to the bazaar around 6:30 a.m. when she stopped behind a long line of traffic near the Windmill Village Bakery in Ravalli. She waited for more than an hour as emergency crews responded to the scene. 

“There was a sheet of ice on the road and it was slick,” she said. Marquez made it to the bazaar around 9:45 a.m. to set up her Christmas decorations and other glass items. She was glad to be there.

At another table, books surrounded Jocko Valley Library volunteers. They brought about 200 donated books from the basement of the Brown Building, where the library is located. The funds from the book sale will be used to help support the library. Director Susan Black said the library is doing well but could use more volunteers.

Bette Samsel sat behind another table set up for the Arlee Senior Center with auction items and a donated quilt. She said funds from the auction will be used for operating and maintenance costs. 

“Money for the nutrition program comes from Area VI (an agency on aging) but we raise money for building costs,” she said.

Across the room, the American Legion Auxiliary for post 113 was selling items to support local veterans during the holidays. Bonnie McClure said people can buy raffle tickets until the drawing on Veteran’s Day for a red, white and blue quilt to help support veterans. Tickets are sold for a dollar each or six for $5. 

“Tickets are at Valley Bank in Arlee until the drawing,” she said. The drawing will be at the American Legion Spaghetti Dinner on Veterans Day at the Arlee Indian Senior Center.

Arlee resident LeaAnn Chafee was selling arrangements of dried organic plants near the kitchen where plates of pie were for sale. Chafee said she doesn’t make a lot of money selling things at markets, and with minimal people attempting to brave the snowy conditions outside, the buzz word at the bazaar was that it was bit slow this year, but that was okay for her.

“I don’t do this for the money,” she said. “I do this to connect with the community and for the chance to socialize.”

Artist Ed Baker, who displayed colorful cards and prints influenced by different tribal cultures, also wasn’t concerned with the smaller turnout.

“Art doesn’t depend on a lot of people, it depends on the right person for it to find the right home,” he said.

At the Hangin’ Art Gallery, Elina Moore, 13, sat behind two small Christmas trees decorated with little stocking hats, popsicle sleds and origami snow flakes. She made the decorations with her mom to help fund a trip she wants to do as a Girl Scout in two years.

“I need to have $4,000 to go to England,” she said. 

During the summer, she sold treats at the farmers market including cupcakes that looked like hamburgers to raise funds. She continues to sell her edible creations and is currently taking orders for treats that look like Thanksgiving turkey drumsticks made with a rice cereal and marshmallow mixture for $2.50 each. To order, call her at 509-385-8518. “They call me Dr. Sweet Tooth,” she said with a big smile. 

Next to the window, a new group called Arlee Youth Connection set up treats and craft activities for kids. Gwen Davis, Mary Rose Morigeau, and Makenzie Felsman started the group in response to several attempted and completed suicides that occurred in the area. 

“We wanted to uplift the community and bring people together,” Davis said. “And we plan to reach out to kids of all ages.”

The group decided to create activities centered on socializing for kids and families, and they intend to invite everyone within 100 miles of Arlee to attend any activity they plan including dances, live music, open gym nights, and movie nights.

“There are not enough fun things for people to do around here, and we want to do more for the kids,” Davis said.

Volunteers, chaperones, and donations are welcome to help with activities. The group can be found on Facebook. Davis can be reached at 406-381-6919. Contact Morigeau at 406-890-9817, and Felsman’s number is 406-493-2803.

People continued to filter through the two buildings on Saturday until around 3 p.m. when the roads were still wet but mostly clear. 


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