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Ronan Harvest Festival approaches

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By Mary Auld for the Valley Journal

RONAN – Hay bales decorated as superheroes will likely begin cropping up around the area as the date of the annual Ronan Harvest Festival approaches. This year's celebration will be held Sept. 21 behind Ronan’s Chamber of Commerce building. 

A hay bale-decorating contest is regular highlight of the event. This year's “trail of bales” will stretch from Ninepipes Museum to the Mission Valley Animal Shelter in Polson along U.S. Highway 93. Bales will be delivered on Aug. 27 and must  be decorated by Sept. 11.

The theme for the bales this year is Avengers Endgame. Ronan Chamber of Commerce Manager Brian Bergquist said the theme should be taken as inspiration and that decorated bales don't have to adhere to the theme. 

According to Bergquist, Ronan High School classes are decorating bales as different Marvel superheroes. Those who live outside of the display area can work with festival organizers to decorate a bale within that area. Festival attendees can view photos of all the bales and cast votes for their favorites.  

Bergquist said the festival serves as an opportunity to celebrate Ronan’s agricultural identity. “At the end of the season everybody gets together to celebrate,” he said. “It’s a nice way for the community to get together.”

The fourth annual Dutch Oven Cook Off is another highlight of the festival. Contestants use thick-walled pots heated with coals atop and around to cook their creations. 

Event coordinator Ronna Walchuk said the unique style of cooking could be used for outdoor adventures and as a survival skill. “It’s a different kind of cooking skill,” she said. “It tastes so good, and it’s such an old style.”  

Members of the public can begin tasting the meals around noon. There are two different divisions in the contest: the novice section for beginners and the elite section for participants who have won the competition in past years. The categories for the contest are bread, main dish, side dish and dessert. Participants can choose to enter in whichever category they’re interested in. Teams of up to six cooks have competed together in the past. 

Walchuk said judges who are “foodies” from the community vote on the best dishes. A first-place prize will be awarded to the winner in each category of each division. 

Beyond the big contests, the festival will feature several attractions for children including games, a petting zoo and a rock-climbing wall. Craft vendors, food and a tractor show are also planned.

The Lake County Community Development Corporation will bring an apple cider press so that community members can press apples from their trees to make cider to take home.  

The Mission Mountain Area Pedal to Plate cycling event takes place the following day, Sunday, Sept. 22. For more information about the event, visit:

Those interested in being vendors or entering one of the contest should contact the Ronan Chamber of Commerce.

According to Bergquist, the event unites the community as it transitions from the warmth of summer to the cold months of winter. “It’s distinctly Ronan,” he said.



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