This year marked the 88th year of Red Lodge’s annual parades that fall on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of July. The parade precedes the annual “Home of the Champions” Rodeo on the same three days.
Each parade held throughout the three days has a unique theme that speaks to some aspect of the town of Red Lodge. This year, July 3rd’s parade was “agriculture” themed–featuring many horses and other agricultural aspects.
While definitely not the most flashy Independence day parade out there, this small town event is not lacking any character or heart. Residents line the street and the whole town essentially comes together in celebration of the town, its history, and its legacy.
On the evening of June 16th at 7 PM, the community in Red Lodge came together for an important event and fundraiser for the town’s search and rescue program. For a $10 admission fee, participants gained access to the back lawn at Red Lodge Ales Brewery where climber Conrad Anker gave a presentation and talk that included the importance of search and rescue. Later in the night he also sold and signed copies of his book.
The event featured a raffle–with ticket purchases supporting the cause. The raffle featured goods from an impressive array of companies, including Patagonia and Mystery Ranch, as well as from local ones like Paris Montana and Red Lodge Ski Area.
Following the raffle, there was live music by local band, Tom Catmull’s Last Resort under cover of the large tent.
All in all this was a wonderful event to attend. Music was playing, beer from Red Lodge Ales was flowing, and everyone seemed to be having a genuinely good time while supporting an important local cause. This is a community that clearly cares about the outdoors and important measures surrounding it.
More than just a popular tourist spot, Red Lodge is a community. There are several outdoor spaces dedicated to residents to enjoy some outdoor activities, or just take some time to escape and enjoy some fresh air.
The Lion’s Club Park is a centrally located community spot, right behind Broadway Ave. and the Art’s Guild building. On old train track sits on the edge of the space, and the open field features goal posts for a quick pick-up game.
Further down Broadway and a couple of blocks to the east towards the old mine sits a quiet area known as City Park. Less of a recreation spot, this park is a very scenic spot right next to the creek that runs through the town. This is a great spot to get out and experience nature without having to travel far at all. This is an ideal spot to picnic or even to just take a couple minutes to breathe in the crisp air and listen to the water run.
On the opposite side of Broadway from City Park is a small but significant skate park. It is a popular spot for local kids to hang out and skate, bike, and scooter. Though there are not very large features at the park, it is a valuable spot for some of the younger locals to improve their skills and get in some activity.
For anyone with a sweet tooth, the Montana Candy Emporium is nothing short of a dream come true. Rows of buckets full of taffy and other sweets take up most of the store, along with unique signs, displays, and other interesting items. At the front of the store, workers are busy crafting handmade chocolates and fudge.
I spoke with the owner Mike (also the owner of the antique store down the street), who has owned the store for 27 years. A native of Red Lodge, Mike speaks very fondly of his business and his employees. Interestingly, Mike also runs his own AM radio station: “Retro Radio” (1490AM), out of his office in the back of the store. It began when he purchased some old radios for the antique shop, and he realized there really wasn’t anything to be played on them. Now a huge hobby, Mike runs adobe software to organize his music and even makes his own jingles that are reminiscent of retro radio stations of years past.
The station’s reach is within the town of Red Lodge and plays a little bit of everything from a classic era, including big band, country, rock, lounge, etc.
Upon asking Mike if he had any thoughts about the Town of Red Lodge, he explained that he feels as though he had “one of the last great childhoods” here– speaking with nostalgia about a simpler time in a small town where the kids would “grab the dogs and the 22s” carefree and without certain concerns that are more prevalent in our modern day society.
Montana’s Candy Emporium is an interesting space run by an even more interesting man. Almost like a step back in time–conveniently providing a sugar rush alongside nostalgic radio tunes.
Tucked into a space on S Broadway Ave. in the small town of Red Lodge, Montana, lies Two Sisters Boutique, arguably the most unique boutique I’ve ever stepped foot in. Think eclectic but then beyond that. The walls are packed with eccentric jewelry, cow hide covered flasks, lace chaps, and “tumbleweed” skirts.
One of the “two sisters”, Heidi Martincic owns the company “Paris Montana” and runs the boutique with Dawn Ann Ritter, owner of “Moo Country”. These two unique brands work well together to create an interesting shopping experience within the town of Red Lodge. Heidi spoke fondly of her brand and what it’s all about– allowing women of “her age” (and whoever) t0 dress the way they want and express themselves. Signs and advertisements of hers relay the message, “all you need is your posse, your pearls, and your Paris Montana tumbleweed”.
This is clearly a store that showcases the talents of some pretty incredible women. I would definitely encourage people to stop in the boutique for interesting clothing and gifts that show the Montana spirit in a unique fashion.
On the corner of 12th and Broadway lies the Red Lodge Antique Mall and Gun Room. Inside features an almost overwhelming amount of historic antiques and collector items–from big ticket items to handmade signs to small coins from brothels found and collected from around the US. The store is a must see for anyone that collects antiques.
At the front of the store I met local David Thompson, who works in the antique section and makes a lot of the custom signs that are also sold there.
In the back of the Antique Mall is the second part of the store, The Gun Room. Rifles line the walls as well as old photographs that tell stories of the West and Red Lodge’s history. There I met Dave Hurtt, or “Gun Cave Dave”. Dave is somewhat of a walking encyclopedia for all things related to Montana, Red Lodge, and western movies. He had no shortage of stories to share about Red Lodge’s past, including tales of bank robbery, rodeo stars, production of bootleg liquor during prohibition, and the town’s first Sheriff, John “Liver Eatin Johnston”. His grandmother’s cousin was Charles Sterrat–an actor in hundreds of western movies. Dave has Sterrat as his middle name and keeps his spirit alive by dressing in an old western fashion (or in his words: “a gay Custer”).
When prompted, “Red Lodge, Montana” could bring up a variety of connotations. A small mining area, a ski resort town, a summer tourism hot spot, a stop off the Beartooth Highway, a gateway to Yellowstone…but there is a bigger picture. Red Lodge is a community with a very rich and interesting history. Upon exploring it and talking with some of the residents there for the first time, it seemed as though there was something new and exciting around every corner. The local stores are packed with interesting artifacts and imagery, and the people that work in them have colorful personalities as well as an investment in the town they live in as well as its history.
A town that has fluctuated in its main industries and population since its founding in circa 1882, Red Lodge seems to be a place that is constantly changing. It is an important town to the state of Montana, facilitating a growing tourism and skiing industry, built upon its rich historic past.
Emigrant is made up of basically three main watering holes. The Old Saloon, which is under construction right now. Chico Hot Springs, which is usually filled with tourists who are either coming or going to Yellowstone, and last but not least, there is the Riverside Bar and Grill. From all of the watering holes that I have been to lately, the Riverside Bar and Grill has been the most local feeling place that I have been to thus far. On Friday evening I went in and sat at the bar for a little bit while locals, and maybe a couple of tourists, were mingling, drinking, eating, and going over their weeks with each other. Most of the people that came in seemed like they did a lot of manual labor as their jobs. Lots of them had dirtier and warn clothes and some of them even wore cowboy hats. I got the immediate feeling that this was more of the ranching crew of people that lived in Emigrant.
On the East side of the Yellowstone River, the land is owned and used for ranching. There is a ton of cattle that roams the land. The people inside of the bar and grill seemed like the type of people that were looking after all of the livestock. It is their place to meet up with friends and cool down or warm up after a long day of work in Paradise Valley.