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Festivals, Fairs and Foodie Fun! Summer Events in The Great American West

April 11, 2019 Visit USA No Comments Email Email

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ny trip to The Great American West is about wildlife, National Parks, history, cowboy and Native American culture, awesome scenery, road tripping, food, festivals, entertainment and so much more. No matter what season you choose to travel to The Great American West, there is an annual calendar of events that brings all these incredible attractions to life in the states of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Here’s some highlights of summer events you’ll only find in these states, so make sure you don’t miss them while you’re visiting. Each state has a diverse range of accommodation options from the unique to the luxurious, from comfortable to camping, wherever you plan to participate in these events.

Check out our Australian & New Zealand websites and our Facebook page for more great photos and information about the Great American West.

Montana

Events

The Montana Folk Festival, Butte – July 12-14
If you happen to be driving from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone this summer, this free festival is one you don’t want to miss with more than 300 performers, artists and food vendors from all over the United States. The festival is held on six stages underneath many of Butte’s iconic headframes which are remnants from its historic mining days and has views overlooking Silver Bow Valley. Those who want to explore their artistic side will be pleased to know that there will also be traditional artists and craft offerings, as well as many food vendors serving ethnic food that represents a range of different cultures in the region!

Helena’s Last Chance Stampede, Helena – July 24-27
Another event on one of the routes from Glacier to Yellowstone, this stampede features evening rodeos that showcase some of the top names in professional rodeo and trick riding. This is an ideal event for the whole family with a carnival that has over 20 rides, a Kid’s Stick Horse Rodeo, and a Kiddie Parade. There will be a colourful downtown parade, livestock sale, and even a petting zoo. You’ll be able to find everything you need for the day right here at the rodeo with over 20 delicious food vendors, an outdoor entertainment tent, and a new grandstand that has seating for 4,600 people!

The Red Ants Pants Music Festival, White Sulphur Springs – July 25-28
Immerse yourself in country music at this enjoyable festival where top musicians like Pam Tillis, Dwight Yoakam, and Wynonna Judd have played. If you want to attend multiple days, you can stay overnight on the enormous campground adjacent to the festival grounds and you can even rent camping packages including tents on-site! The Red Ants Pants Music Festival will benefit those in need, with a portion of the funds going towards women’s leadership, working family farms, and rural communities.

Crow Fair Powwow and Rodeo, Billings – August 14-19
If the wild west is your reason for visiting Montana, this is one of the biggest rodeos in the U.S.A. and is held each year in Crow Agency by the Apsaalooke people of the Crow Indian Reservation. There are many cultural activities on display including a daily morning parade showing traditional bead work, buckskin and leather work, as well as an evening powwow that exhibits different dance styles. Part of the celebration is an All-Indian rodeo which showcases the best Indian-Cowboys in the western United States, in addition to the much-loved Indian-Relay horse races. The celebration ends with a ‘Dance-Through-Camp’ which is meant as a prayer for good things for the Crow Tribe and for the coming year.

Featured accommodation
Grand Union Hotel, Fort Benton
If you like to explore, the Grand Union Hotel overlooking the Missouri River is a great option and not far off the route from Glacier to Yellowstone. The property consists of 26 luxurious guest rooms, many of which have an incredible view of the Missouri River and park. The hotel sat empty for over a decade before it was purchased and beautifully restored in 1997. There are rooms and suites of various sizes which all have a deluxe private bath, direct dial phone, wireless internet, cable television, a desk, heating and air conditioning. Dinner while staying here is an easy option with the hotel’s excellent riverside ‘Union Grille Restaurant’ which has seasonal outdoor dining, a lively brewpub and a quirky gift shop.

Wyoming

Events

Jackson Hole Old West Days, Jackson Hole – May 23-27
Jackson Hole Old West Days has been a popular event for over 30 years and features live music, theatrical entertainment, and rodeo events. You can go on horse-drawn carriage stage coach rides, compete in bow and arrow and hawk and knife competitions, go on a free historical walking tour of Jackson, and even watch a re-enactment of a shootout in the town square! This event is perfect for families as there are arts and crafts for kids, line dancers, country western music, and cowboy poetry. There are delicious dining options, including a chuckwagon dinner with cowboy entertainment at the nationally acclaimed Bar J Wranglers. As a town, Jackson Hole offers authentic western art, high end shopping, unique boutiques, plus wildlife tours, and of course the nearby National Elk Refuge.

Cody Stampede Rodeo, Cody – July 1-4
The eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park is accessed via a scenic drive from Cody, Wyoming. This year will be the 100th Annual Cody Stampede Rodeo which is an authentic western event with four PRCA sanctioned rodeos, performances from regional musicians, and a ‘Runners Stampede’ where you can go on a 5km or 10km walk or run. A highlight of the Cody Stampede Rodeo is the Stampede Parade with various colourful parade floats including authentic costuming of horse club members, refurbished steam tractors, military equipment, and even marching bands! Art lovers should visit the craft fair in City Park and all will enjoy the vibrant 4th of July fireworks. While in Cody, don’t miss the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, an outpost of the Smithsonian with five fascinating western museums under one roof with nightly entertainment.

Cheyenne Frontier Days, Cheyenne – July 19-28
A lesser known version of the Calgary Stampede, this major event takes place in Wyoming’s historic capital city Cheyenne, just a two hour drive north of the gateway city Denver, Colorado. You’ll be kept entertained at this exciting event that is hailed as the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration where you can see bull riding, bareback riding, roping, steer wrestling, and barrel racing. You can even have a free pancake breakfast, go on a behind-the scenes-tour of the arena, watch a USAF Thunderbirds Show or head to the Indian Village to immerse yourself in authentic Native American culture with dancing, storytelling, flute players, handicrafts and food. The fun continues into the night where you can dance to live music at Buckin’ A Saloon, or purchase tickets to see top musicians play live including Post Malone, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, and Miranda Lambert. Top tip: If you do want to attend the rodeo don’t forget to book early as Cheyenne is a relatively small town and accommodation options book out quickly.

Fort Bridger Rendezvous, Fort Bridger – August 30-September 2
If your western history was learned from Spaghetti Westerns on TV, this event will bring it into life up close and personal. Take part in one of the largest mountain man gatherings in North America by attending the Fort Bridger Rendezvous. This is an annual re-enactment of the Fur Trade Rendezvous Era where mountain men traded with Native Indians in the 1800s. This intriguing event includes presentations from national historians, hawk and knife throwing, performances from top Native American drummers and dancers, archery shooting, cooking competitions, children’s games, and a mountain run.

Featured accommodation
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins, Yellowstone National Park
Let’s face it, while in Wyoming you can’t go past Yellowstone National Park. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins was built in 1936 and is conveniently located within Yellowstone National Park. This means you can explore the park and see its incredible natural features including the legendary Old Faithful geyser that erupts hot water high into the air, the colourful Grand Prismatic Spring, and the massive Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, before heading back to this historic property for a relaxing night. The hotel features a signature Map Room containing a large wooden map of the United States and a full bar for you to enjoy a drink while listening to live pianist Randy Ingersoll who plays on Sundays-Thursdays.

Idaho

Events

Free Fishing Day – June 8
The Snake River and other waterways in Idaho are famous for fly-fishing and other angling opportunities. All anglers local and international can celebrate this sport by fishing Idaho’s waters on this day without a licence! Free Fishing Day is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids how to fish, and there will be many free events set up throughout the state by Idaho Fish and Game which will help beginners learn the skills. One top fishing spot is Snake River which is a scenic natural area with trees ranging in colour from pink and green to yellow, providing a perfect fishing backdrop.

Savor Idaho, Boise – June 9
Boise is the capital of Idaho and a vibrant city with lots of surprising attractions for visitors including a Basque community and culture, nearby wineries, and the World Center for Birds of Prey. If you’re a wine lover, then Idaho is a great place to be in June which is ‘Idaho Wine Month’ where all wineries and vineyards hold events and specials. Buy tickets to join in the 11th Anniversary of ‘Savor Idaho’ where you will have the unique opportunity to try some of the best wine and food Idaho has on offer in the Botanical Gardens in Boise. While sipping your way through Idaho’s best wine, listen to tunes from rock singer Douglas Cameron.

Brunch cruises on Lake Coeur d’Alene – June 9-September 1 (Sundays 11am-12:30pm)
Coeur d’Alene in the north-west of Idaho is known for its beautiful namesake lake, golf courses, and recreational offerings. For a unique and memorable brunch, enjoy on-the-water dining with a mouth-watering meal while cruising on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Take in panoramic views of the lake while enjoying various foods from the award-winning Coeur d’Alene Resort Culinary team including roast ham and turkey, bacon, sausage, quiche, scrambled eggs, pasta salad, strawberry spinach salad, and assorted desserts. On board is a ‘Build your own Bloody Mary Bar’ where you can choose your own ingredients of garnishes, spices and spirits to make the perfect drink for yourself!

Warhawk Air Museum Warbird Roundup 2019, Nampa – August 24-25 (9am-4pm)
Situated in Nampa just outside the capital of Boise, history lovers will want to visit the Warhawk Air Museum to learn more about World War I, World War II, and the Cold War Era through their unique collection of equipment and airplanes including two rare Curtiss P-40 World War II fighter planes. One of the best times to look at these planes is at the 17th Annual Warbird Roundup which is a yearly gathering of famous WWII airplanes at the museum. You will be able to see these planes up close as they are flown around in front of you! There will also be insightful presentations from Col. Clarence E (Bud) Anderson and Steven Hinton who will provide interesting information about flying these rare planes.

Featured accommodation
The Coeur d’Alene Resort
The Coeur d’Alene Resort is a sophisticated destination that overlooks a stunning alpine lake and has three sections of rooms; the Lake Tower, the Park tower, and the North Wing. All rooms are upscale and offer optimal comfort with complimentary wi-fi, cotton robes, luxury toiletries, refrigerators, and a daily newspaper delivered each morning. Venture to the resort’s Spa for a massage or facial, or lounge by the lakeside infinity pool to soak up the sun. This exclusive resort also contains the world’s only Floating Green which is the 14th hole of the waterfront golf course. Stay active by going jet skiing or paddle boarding or pamper yourself at the full-service salon that offers pedicures, manicures, make-up services, and haircuts for both males and females.

North Dakota

Events

Medora Musical, Medora – Nightly from June 1-September 7
Medora is an authentic western town and the entry point to pristine Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of the key attractions in North Dakota. Don’t miss the Medora Musical which is dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt’s time in the Badlands and the Spirit of the Old West. Known as one of the greatest shows in the West, this unique Americana musical is performed outdoors at the 2900-seat Burning Hills Amphitheatre with the picturesque Badlands as its backdrop. You’re sure to enjoy the show which features lively music from the Burning Hills Singers and live band The Coal Diggers, live horses on stage and even fireworks. Before watching this energetic show, enjoy a delicious buffet dinner at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue, where chefs load steaks onto pitchforks and fondue them western style! Medora also has the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Maah Daah Hey Trail, and Harold Schafer Heritage Center.

Mandan Rodeo Days, Mandan – July 2-4
Taking place in the twin city of Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota’s capital, visitors can enjoy three days of western entertainment at this nationally ranked PRCA rodeo, with bucking broncs, swinging ropes and bulls. In addition to the rodeo events, there will be specialty acts, firework displays, street dances, Art in the Park, and an exciting Fourth of July parade with fireworks. ‘Family Night’ on July 2 is ideal for anyone with kids as there are free hot dogs and fun activities including learning to rope, stick horse barrel racing, and running on an inflatable obstacle course.

United Tribes International Powwow, Bismarck – September 6-8
Taking place in Bismarck is one of the key annual events in the Native American calendar. If you’re looking for an entertaining day filled with culture, colour and movement, the United Tribes Technical College International Powwow held in the Lone Star Arena at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck will not disappoint. Dancers and singers dressed in unique cultural regalia will wow audiences as they perform traditional dances and compete while keeping in time with the drumming. This annual celebration is sure to keep you entertained as it showcases over 1500 dancers and drummers from across the United States and Canada that represent over 70 tribes. You can buy traditional arts and crafts from over 40 Native American artists selling their work at the powwow including handcrafted jewellery, war shields, rugs, woven baskets, and pottery.

Haunted Fort, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park – Weekends in October
Held in Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park just outside Bismarck, be prepared to get scared at Haunted Fort where Abraham Lincoln’s buildings are transformed into terrifying experiences. Actors at Haunted Custer House, Zombie Battlefield, and Clown House combine eerie effects with in-your-face-scares that turn these buildings into terrifying attractions, with over 8000 attending each year! For children too young for this exciting event, there is an afternoon Children’s Bash with carnival games, prizes, and spooky tours of the Haunted Custer House from Custer’s dead butler.

Featured accommodation
Totten Trail Historic Inn, Fort Totten
If you’re in North Dakota and love American history, head to Fort Totten State Historic Site which was originally constructed as a military post and then turned into Employee housing during the Indian Boarding School Era. Located within this historic site is Totten Trail Historic Inn, this bed and breakfast allows you to uniquely experience life as it was in the Great American West back in the 19th Century. The Inn has 10 different rooms, each carefully decorated to represent the era from 1870-1910, with antiques, furnishings and photographs from this time. Various rooms are available with king, queen, full, and twin sized beds in heated or air-conditioned rooms.

South Dakota

Events

Crazy Horse Volksmarch, Custer – June 1-2, September 29
Crazy Horse Memorial is the world’s largest mountain carving-in-progress and has already been under construction for the last 70 years. Once finished it will celebrate Crazy Horse, the Native American leader of the Oglala Lakota who defended Native American culture and territory. Stay active and view this incredible sculpture up close by joining in the Crazy Horse Volksmarch which is the most popular organised hike in the United States. This exciting event will see you hike up Crazy Horse Memorial on a 10km round trip where you turn around at the arm of Crazy Horse, which is directly in front of the nine-story high face!

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sturgis – August 2-11
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is one of the world’s oldest and largest motorcycle gatherings and sees 500,000 riders, music lovers and food enthusiasts flock here annually. Listed as one of the 1000 places to see before you die, this year’s rally will be better than ever before with amazing riding, exhibitors, motorcycle shows, racing, and even concerts. Motorcycle riders can choose to see iconic parts of The Great American West such as Devil’s Tower, Bear Butte, Custer State Park, and Deadwood. Apart from the all-important riding options, ‘pilgrims’ to Sturgis will sample great food and listen to concerts by top calibre musicians playing this year including Keith Urban, Skid Row, and George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Downtown Riverfest, Sioux Falls – August 17
Party at the 7th annual Downtown Riverfest in Sioux Falls for a day of fun with live music on two stages, kids’ activities, live art, and fireworks to finish the night with a bang! You won’t be left hungry with many delicious food and drink options to keep you nourished while enjoying the music. If you’re in the mood to stay active, go canoeing with the South Dakota Canoe & Kayak Association for a relaxing ride on the river.

Annual Black Hills Powwow and Art Market, Rapid City – October 11-13
The Black Hills Powwow (He Sapa Wacipi) is an exciting Native American cultural event filled with singing, dancing, drum groups, art shows, games, and sport. Watch the incredible dancers with their colourful outfits, or take part yourself by playing hand games, softball, golf, and archery! The 33rd Powwow will be held at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City and welcomes people of all cultures to enjoy the Great Plains’ Indigenous song and dance..

Featured accommodation
Quality Inn Hill City Mount Rushmore
An option for both the Volksmarch or the Powwow event above is Quality Inn Hill City Mount Rushmore which is located in Hill City, with the famous and scenic Mickelson biking and hiking trail passing directly behind it. This cosy 55-unit hotel even has a room solely for guests to store their bicycles in, as well as an indoor heated pool, free Wi-Fi, a free hot breakfast, and guest laundry facilities. The hotel has recently been fully refurbished which brought it into the top 15 of all Quality Inns – numbering nearly 2000! Its convenient location next to Mickelson biking trail means you can go for a leisurely ride before having a comfortable night in the recently refreshed property.

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