LEWISTOWN, Mont. – Fairs are often associated with summer here in Montana, but for 75 years the Montana Winter Fair has chased away the cold weather blues by providing fun for all ages. This year, the historic event will once again be held in the heart of Montana ag country, Jan. 18-26.
Originally, the Montana Winter fair was held in Bozeman. Starting in 1946, the event has always been a draw for those involved in agriculture all across Big Sky Country. In 2002, the wintertime event found a new home in Lewistown, and each year since then the event has continued to grow, offering more events to more people.
Chris Cooler, board chair for the Montana Winter fair, emphasized there will be a little something for everyone at this year’s fair, with family fun and education being the core theme of the entire event.
“Most of our events have some sort of an educational component, whether it’s having a beginner class or having some mentoring going on. For the other piece of it, we try to be very family oriented by bringing the kids in and keeping them involved and entertained,” Cooler said.
Youth are a big part of the future of agriculture and they are a big part of the Montana Winter Fair, as well. A livestock judging and ag ambassador contest will be open to all 4-H and FFA members on Saturday, Jan. 25. In addition, a junior feeder steer and heifer show will be held on Jan., 26, the last day of Winter Fair.
Younger children will find fun galore on Jan. 24 and 25. Old McDonald’s Barn will be set up with lots of farm animals on display for children to see and learn more about. A pinewood derby and stick horse rodeo will surely keep the wee ones entertained, and a meet and greet with Winter Fair’s legendary Ice Queen is bound to bring some smiles.
There are plenty of educational opportunities for adults at Winter Fair, as well. On Thursday, Jan. 23, a crop forum will be held with a livestock-centered forum slated for Jan. 24. Forums begin at 10 a.m., both days, and are free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided.
Like any good fair, there will be no shortage of food at this year’s Winter Fair. A chili cook-off, cinnamon roll bake-off and a Dutch oven cook-off, all slated for Saturday Jan. 25, will provide fairgoers with ample nourishment. Best of all, these events are all free to attend. However, Cooler explained donations are always gladly accepted.
A food event unique to Montana Winter Fair is “Savor the Flavor,” which will be held Thursday, Jan. 23, from 5-8 p.m. “Savor the Flavor” highlights foods and drinks that are not only made from ingredients grown in Montana, but the value-added product is also produced in Montana. At the event, guests will get to sample breads, meats, cheeses and spirits that are truly Montana grown and made.
“We serve a variety of foods that are grown and produced here. The big point of this event is to learn about the value-added process,” Cooler explained.
In celebration of the Fair’s 75th anniversary, a slideshow presentation and keynote speaker will present during the “Savor the Flavor” tasting, as well. Showcasing the history of Lewistown, Montana agriculture and the Winter Fair will be a great way to honor the event.
Tickets for “Savor the Flavor” are $25. They can be purchased online at montanawinterfair.com, or in person at the Lewistown Art Center.
The 2020 Winter Fair will have two new events this year, as well. A ranch rodeo will be held on Saturday, Jan. 25. The inaugural event will be open to 10, four person teams who will race against the clock, displaying the everyday skills they use on the ranch. The ranch rodeo will begin at 1 p.m., at the Fairgrounds Livestock Pavilion.
The crowd-pleasing event of skijoring will also be new to the 2020 Winter Fair. They tried to host the event last year, but a lack of snow made it not possible. Cooler says not to fear, this year a snow machine is on hand to make snow if Mother Nature doesn’t produce, so no matter what, a skijoring will be held.
This January, Lewistown will celebrate agriculture by paying homage to the western way of life through events that promote education and comradery. There will be shopping, plenty of food and never a dull moment at the 75th Montana Winter Fair. For a full schedule and list of events, please visit www.montanawinterfair.com.