Car show, brewfest, art festival converge in Polson
POLSON — A cluster of community events came together over the weekend to get the community outside and supporting good causes.
The Sandpiper Arts Festival celebrated its 51st year on the courthouse lawn this year with 48 new and returning artists filling up over 50 booths for locals to visit.
“The gist of it is it provides funds for our student scholarships, kids workshops, and other projects we have in the community,” Festival Chair Carole Carberry explained. “Also it’s an opportunity for emerging artists to show and sell their work, and we’ve got very established artists too.”
Artists signed up for the festival by visiting the Sandpiper Art Gallery website to download and submit an application and fee earlier in the year. Once accepted, the gallery collects a booth fee and gives them a hand-selected location to avoid having too many types of the same artists clustered together throughout the show.
“It’s a great effort on the part of our gallery,” Carberry said. “A lot of people are involved in making it happen, and we do good things with the funds we raise from it.”
Each year, the cooperative gallery puts together up to $3,000 for a scholarship for local students interested in pursuing an art-related degree. From the applicants, they choose the student they feel is most deserving, occasionally resulting in more than one scholarship awarded.
Previous Sandpiper scholarship winner Henrietta WolfBlack, a featured artist this year, debuted her ledger and digital art. “We’re really excited about that,” Carberry commented on WolfBlack’s presence. “She’s got a very unique style, it’s quite beautiful, and we’re just very pleased to have her in the show.”
Carberry herself had a booth this year, displaying both her own artwork and stain glass ornaments she makes with her husband.
She first became involved in the festival in 2006 when during a visit for the summer she saw a sign advertising the event. She called and asked if they still had spots available and when they confirmed they did she bought a tent and had her husband mail her several of their ornaments from South Carolina. Thanks to that experience, she’s now been one of the approximately 60 members of the cooperative for 15 years.
“It was very flash in the pan,” Carberry laughed. “That was my first experience with the show here, and it was a lot of fun.”
At the same time as the Arts Festival, the Polson Brew Fest took place; the first ever put on by the Polson Rotary Club.
While the Rotary Club used to do a chili cookoff each August in conjunction with the other community events, after a couple years off due to covid they took the time to refresh and decided to come back with something new.
Held on Main Street in front of the Elks Lodge 1695, they kept things simple with four breweries: Polson’s own Glacier Brewing, Ronan’s Cooperative Brewery, Tamarack Brewing from Lakeside and Flathead Lake Brewing from Big Fork.
“We’ll learn some lessons I’m sure this year,” President Brooke Duty laughed.
Part of a national organization, the Polson Rotary Club has raised over $400,000 since it began give back to youth projects in the community. “This year we’re giving to four different groups,” Duty explained. “The cheerleaders for new uniforms, Polson youth baseball for new equipment, and also every year it seems we donate to Mission Valley Aquatics. The second and third graders get swimming lessons every year through (Polson) schools, so we help pay for that in conjunction with the Greater Polson Community Foundation … we all live on the lake here, so we want to make sure the kids at least have some skills in swimming lessons. We’re also donating to the Polson wrestling club. They have a lot more girls who are starting to wrestle and a lot more kids so they need new singlets, so we’re going to donate to them too so they can get all suited up.”
To keep the Brew Fest a family event, attendees didn’t pay by person but by drink ticket and a number of activities were available for kids including games and face painting put on by the Polson cheerleaders. Local band Hellcat Maggie performed from 2-4 p.m. on a stage borrowed from Anderson Broadcasting. The Elks Lodge also raised money for their own nonprofit causes such as supporting firefighters, veterans and more using sales of hamburgers, hotdogs and a bar open for those not into the microbrewery scene.
Though the event acted as Rotary’s annual fundraiser, Duty commented “… the Brew Fest is more of a community event to kind of bring everyone together. Hopefully we make a little extra money this year, but typically our raffle sales are where we bring our money in.”
Last but not least, the Cruisin’ by the Bay car show was held on Main Street, put together by the Mission Valley Cruisers.
Around 150 cars from both private owners and car clubs from Missoula, Helena, and Kalispell lined Main Street. With conflicting car shows moved to other weekends, as well as a welcoming reception for any car looking to be shown, Activities Director Shelly Cordis said they had a much bigger response this year than last.
Originally started by the club back in the ‘90s before being briefly run by Dennis Anderson of Anderson Broadcasting as the club restructured, Cruisin’ by the Bay has been growing every year.
“We hope to, as the show gets bigger and bigger, to start doing some scholarships and things like that … Our club’s one of the few that’s not for profit,” Cordis explained. While the show did have sponsorships from local businesses and some funds raised from participating vendors and food trucks, she said the club just breaks even with their events. A membership for the club only costs $25 for a whole family, and is now even free for the rest of the year with the conclusion of this show.
“We’re not a real rigid club,” Cordis laughed. Membership is not based on the cars owned. Some of their current members have project cars, or are between cars, or are even just young people trying to learn. “We’re just all about fun and cruising around. We’re for everybody.”
Some members brought two or three of their cars to the show, bringing in a total of around 30 club cars at the event. Cordis even brought her own 1950 Chevy. However, club cars are not in the vote for the top ten or best in show, and club members don’t vote. The only ones allowed to vote at this car show are the drivers themselves.
“The drivers know the cars and appreciate the cars,” Cordis said. “No good old boy voting … it’s solely based on the car.”
The winners of the car show were all awarded unique trophies that were custom made out of car parts by members of the Mission Valley Cruisers.
Bill Baroch from Polson with his 1962 Chevy Impala won 2022 Best in Show, and the top ten were:
- Dennis Black, Arlee, 1947 GMC COE
- Cole Younger, Arlee, 1952 GMC 3100
- Craig Eaton, Rollins, 1956 Chevy 210 Wagon
- Greg Greene, Kalispell, 1939 Chevy Truck Copper Rat
- Paul Kruger, Columbia Falls, 1934 Dodge Pickup
- Candy Johnson, Columbia Falls, 1928 Dodge 5-Window Coupe
- William Oden, Polson, 1975 Ford F-250
- Robin Ellenwood, Polson, 1932 Plymouth PB Coupe
- Ron McDowell, Rollins, 1960 Chevy Corvette
- Nancy Mcdowell, Rollins, 1947 Studebaker M5
While this show has ended, Cordis maintains a Facebook page called Montana Car Shows and Cruises that acts as a calendar for car shows throughout Montana. All car clubs in Montana now post there, making it a “one stop shop,” Cordis said, for car events throughout the state. “It’s a real community effort.”