As the spring raindrops began to fall a little harder on those waiting for the annual Plains Days Parade to begin last Saturday, an elderly man from Thompson Falls summed it all up.
“We’re from Montana,” Floyd Swope said as he wheeled his daughter’s little dog in a stroller through the dozen or more tents set up by vendors and food vendors who set up their portable stores at first light.
“The rain won’t stop anything. When we left Thompson Falls it was raining, glad that didn’t happen here. We wanted to get out of town for the day and have fun.”
With this attitude prevalent among the hundreds of people who lined Highway 200, the city’s main street, it was clear that the rainfall was not going to dampen the locals who came to laugh, smile and soak up the small town in America.
After two years of uncertainty and the outright cancellation of the entire event, Plains residents and those across the region were clearly ready to have a good time.
The day started at the Plains VFW where the Thompson Falls Masonic Lodge was hosting a pancake meal which was actually a full breakfast for those looking to refuel before the busy day started.
“It went really well,” Lodge member Bill Burrell said. “We opened at 7 a.m. and by nine o’clock we had served over 50 breakfasts.”
Then, as crowds began to line the streets ahead of the parade, Rocky Mountain Bank, which would later host the annual “Turtle Races,” announced it was handing out free ice cream on a first-come basis. , first served. This announcement drew a crowd of parade-goers to the banking area driving from the bank along Highway 200.
Around the time (it’s a small town in America), the first glimpse of the upcoming parade, the VFW color guard, could be seen marching through the streets with flags waving in the light wind.
Behind the color guard was a long, noisy line of first responders who brought sirens and flashing lights to the street and heightened the anticipation of those on the road that Plains Day was underway.
“We love Plains Days,” said Peggy McCarthy, who, along with two other family members, had placed folding lawn chairs along the parade route and watched with delight as children rushed for candy and the like. treats that were carefully tossed from the entrances to the passing parade. “We’ll make it a day.”
As the parade went under the theme “Let Freedom Ring”, it was also evident that dozens of politicians seeking elected office across the region understood the importance and potential benefits of participating in the event.
Along the way, campaign volunteers handed out information brochures on behalf of their candidate.
The parade also featured the annual appearance of US Forest Service mascot Smokey Bear, who waved to the smiling crowd of children who were otherwise busy scrambling to steal candy and trinkets.
At the end of the parade, a Bobcat front-end loader brought up the rear with its shovel bucket serving as a receptacle for horse manure left behind by some of the few horses in the parade.
“I always love the parade,” said Plains-area resident Ginny Brown. “I have always liked the horses involved but this year there were only two horses”.
In fact, there were four, including a pair of horses pulling a local church group’s cart down the street.
After the parade ended, visitors flocked to the leafy park in droves, which was teeming with vendors, who consider the Plains Day celebration one of the main events they try to attend every year.
“I would rather bring my works to a celebration like Plains than to a flea market-type event,” said Josh Jurek, a local artist who features intricately carved and beautifully carved woodwork among the works he has exhibited. “I love coming to small town Montana.”
From the vendor area, most of the crowd made their way to the Rocky Mountain Bank parking lot, where they were able to stand under the covered bank lanes as turtle race officials prepared to release the slow-moving creatures into the parking.
The turtles were released in the center of a large chalk-drawn circle, with the winner being the first turtle to crawl across the outer line of the circle.
After the Turtle Races, the action returned to VFW where the street in front of the veteran’s facility had been closed to make room for competitors in the Crosscut Sawing event.
Several two-man teams of participants, who were paid $10 for each time they sawed large logs that were held in place on makeshift saw horses, strained and sweated as the timekeeper and master ceremonial Rocky Hart encouraged the crowd of approximately 100 spectators to show their support for the contestants.
“Come on, let’s cheer them on,” Hart urged the crowd, who were clearly enjoying the sawing event despite the increasingly heavy rain. “These guys need your help, let’s get them started.”
In the end, after several participants had indeed entered the event two or even three times, Ben Feiro and Noah Hathorne of Plains won the competition, sawing the log in 29.12 seconds. The win was good for $40 each and 1st place ribbons.
Second place went to two visitors from Colorado, named Ace. Ervin Sommers and John Hochstetler completed the cup in 32.12 and took home $20 each and some mini trophies.
“We were just passing through and thought we’d give it a try,” Sommers said.
Live music and dancing were planned to close out the day’s events which parade organizers and supporters said were a success.
“It was a good day,” said VFW’s Heather Allen. “I think there weren’t as many people in the parade as last year, but given the rain that was falling, it was a good turnout.”
Allen hinted that more lumberjack type events could be added next year after seeing the popularity of this year’s crosscut competition.