by Susie Wall
Each year the elves of Bigfork, Montana, gather together to transform this lovely little mountain town into a magical winter wonderland so visitors can celebrate the whole holiday season. The merriment then continues well past the new year with a host of festive events.
Bigfork Elves Decorating Day kicks off Bigfork’s holiday festivities the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Close to 100 elves will meet for a short tutorial then hit the streets of Electric and Grand avenues to hang lights, tie bows on evergreen boughs and set out Christmas gnomes. You don’t have to be a local to be an elf. Anyone can volunteer. Hot coffee and chocolate, doughnuts and the building excitement for the coming holidays will be your payment. Since the decorating starts early and only goes for about four hours you can treat yourself when you’re done with lunch at the Pocketstone Café or a pint at Flathead Lake Brewing Company.
Return to Bigfork proper later that day to satisfy your Christmas list as you shop for unique Montana presents at Electric Avenue Gifts and Electric Buffalo Jewelry. At 4:00 p.m. the Holiday Art Walk commences. Local galleries such as Bird in Hand, Gary Riecke and Persimmon invite you in to peruse their artwork while noshing on small bites and sipping adult beverages. Be sure to hang around until 7:00 p.m. for the lighting of the town’s towering Christmas tree, cut fresh from the surrounding forest. Lend your voice to the caroling and listen in as the Night Before Christmas is read.
Shop Small Saturday the day after Thanksgiving is Bigfork’s laid-back alternative to Black Friday. Stop in the many unique shops in town to take advantage of special deals. Then return to Bigfork on December 4th for the Parade of Lights. Wrap your scarf up tight and secure your spot along Electric and Grand avenues to watch as twinkling floats and a host of Christmas characters cruise past. The parade culminates at Bigfork Center for Performing Arts where Santa will make his arrival to hear the kids’ Christmas wishes and create lasting holiday memories.
The elves will gather together once more in Bigfork’s Christmas village at the end of January to take down the decorations and pack them safely away until Christmas comes once again.
For a full list of events and dates, and to plan your stay in Bigfork, visit bigfork.org. For information about travel in Northwestern Montana, visit glaciermt.com.