Every summer Trout Creek hosts its annual Huckleberry Festival and this year hundreds of people descended onto the town to celebrate the summer and to experience the culture of Montana.
During the three-day event, bagpipes played, helicopter carried people on tours and the little town was filled well past its limit. Traffic backed up as the parade was started and the local police set up roadblocks to funnel the through traffic around the outside of the town. There were dozens of vendors and demonstrators showing and selling their crafts and food. Many of the vendors were locals from Sanders County and several come every year, along with a few new faces who used this year as their first time selling at the festival. Many of the venders brought with them interesting stories and art.
A local woman from Trout Creek, Marilyn O’Neill, dubbed the “Candyma’am,” came from Thompson Falls. She and her daughter, Jennifer Zavala, sold their home-made chocolates of several varieties.
O’Neill has been making the delicious candies since 1997 after her niece opened “Munchies Candy” in downtown Thompson Falls. O’Neill bought the business in 2001 and changed the name to her more appropriate title.
She now works out of a shop her husband built for her behind their house where all the chocolates are made. Several of the chocolates they create utilize local huckleberries for their fillings. There are many other varieties all made in small batches. They can be bought in artistic gift boxes made by her husband, Bill.
Another craftsman from Plains, Brad Stacey, brought his handmade wooden bowls. Each one was crafted from different types of wood giving them all a unique and rustic appearance. His wife Diana Reetz-Stacey accompanied him, along with her sister to help sell the bowls at the festival.
A long-time returning vendor was Ellen Childress. She was at the festival selling her turned clay pottery. Childress brought everything from pots and plates to coffee cups and yarn bowls. The stoneware is all treated to be dishwasher and microwave safe and made with food safe glazes. She hails from Plains as well.
Lastly was a young man, Josh Jurek, who was also from Plains, who specialized in intricate carvings onto bone and antlers. He drew and painted on the art as well as etching and carving to create complex and ornate works of art.
He started by making cribbage boards and eventually migrated to create large and impressive works. He loves camping, hunting, fishing, trapping and anything that gets him outdoors along with creating art that expresses those feelings and hobbies.