Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Rediscovering home: Summer events

by Bruce Moats
| June 5, 2024 12:00 AM

The land had grown deep green alfalfa. Now it hosts the white elegance of the LDS Church, which on this day played host to the soulful rhythms of Hannah Jackson.  

My brothers and I had picked rock, changed irrigation water, cut and stacked hay on the ground under the chairs where I and other audience members sat. That realization hit as I listened to Hannah, only 19, play mostly music of her own making. The land remains, serves yet another purpose and life goes on. That Hannah is the granddaughter of Superiorites Rick and July Seeman, serves as another reminder of how the past connects to the present.  

The concert was put on by the Mineral County Performing Arts Council, one of several organizations working to make Mineral County an even better place to live by putting on events. While good ideas are aplenty, it takes people to do the work. A founder of the local cornhole tournament, Richard Mellender said, given the county’s small population, “It is amazing how much this community supports these events.” 

Yellow-shirted volunteers helped get the summer event season started in Superior at the Old Schoohouse Rock Car Show last weekend. 

The Mineral County Rec Club has become the hub for community-based events, providing insurance coverage and acting as a clearinghouse. The club’s Drew Hanson says many club board members are part of or have connections with the various events, so it helps avoid scheduling conflicts.

Hanson told the Superior Town Council the Club is working with a grant writer. A goal might be to build a facility.

The past meets the future again as Drew’s family operated the Hanson Garage on West Mullan Road, and each Christmas his grandfather, George, would give my family a box of the most sweet oranges. Drew spent several Fourth of July holidays at our annual family gatherings, as his dad, Jon, is childhood friends with brother Mark.  

The club was started because folks thought the community was not doing as many events as in the past. One event that went away was Derby Days. The club has reincarnated the event with the River City Festival, schedule this year on July 13.

The whole community gathered for old Derby Days, which ended around the time the rodeo was started. Loggers competed in various skill events. The main event involved educated guesses as to when the derby ball would travel down the Clark Fork to the Superior bridge. The local bars (there were  at least six at the time) earned much of their annual revenue during the celebration.

The River Street Festival still features the derby ball. Instead of logging competitions, paddle board sprint races have delighted the crowds along the river trail and on the bridge. There have been some crashes and awkward starts among the competitors, many of whom have come festooned in “crazy costumes.” Racing categories include kids (10-17), amateur, professional and Super Hero (these hardy, but possibly foolish, competitors paddle upstream).

The club has considered a longer race than from the Big Eddy to the bridge, but that would take more volunteers. That may come in the future. There will be music, venders and a “Kids Zone” sponsored by the County Health Department. 

The following day, a community float is scheduled from the Big Eddy to Dry Creek. The event is a reward for the volunteers, but everyone is invited. 

One event assisted by the Rec Club is 54 Cornhole Tournament on July 27 next to Trail West Bank. The tourney has expanded beyond its original purpose of supporting 4-H shooting sports, and has a new name this year. Teams can register online at buildmt.com, or up until right before the 11 a.m. start. New this year, the field will be split into two brackets – experienced players and those out to just enjoy a day’s fun. The organizers hope to have 40 to 50 teams, as more people from outside the county are discovering the tournament. About 31 participated last year. 

The tournament raises its own financing and has built up a fund since it began about six years ago. Richard Millender reported that a business and organization can apply for grants to fix up or beautify property. As an example, the grant could pay to paint a building.  

(The softball tournament will move to St. Regis this year because of the Superior sewer project, which will occupy the land around the fields.)

New this year is a river cleanup tentatively scheduled for Aug. 17.

Organizers are looking for sponsors for the project, including the Conservation District. Organizations or groups of individuals can adopt a section or access point along the Clark Fork. A party is planned after the cleanup.  

Organizer Matt Spangler, a river guide and son of Joe, another friend to my brothers, took an advanced guiding course through Montana State University called “Guiding for the Future.” It is designed to promote conservation efforts, ethics and stewardship of the rivers that fishing guides across Montana attended. The river cleanup resulted from the "Do something to get involved" section.  

Late summer is good for the river guides as water temperatures will result in “hoot owl” restrictions on daytime fishing. (I recall being on “hoot owl” in the hot days of summer while working as a “hooker” and other logging jobs to pay for college.)

Disposing of the refuse collected presents a challenge, but it appears it may be done free of charge.

The club may announce a couple more events, but it is being careful not to overextend its volunteers and other resources.   

“We want to make sure we do the things we do really well,” Hanson said.

The Arts Council will present Shakespeare in the Park again this summer. This year’s performance, "The Winter’s Tale," raises the curtain at 6 p.m. at the Fairgrounds. 

“People pretty much just need to show up, and are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, a blanket, and picnic supplies if they so desire,” Jim Goss of the MCPAC said. “Great event to bring the whole family to; you can always depend on some physical comedy and a sword fight or two.” 

Goss can be reached at jgossorcreich@blackfoot.net. (He was part of a now idle table tennis group with my brothers, Guy and Steve. Sorry, I know this can get repetitive.) Folks can get on an email list that will notify/remind them of upcoming Arts Council events.

One last event to note. The Historical Society will host its tour of the Cedar Creek gold fields on Sept. 7. Having grown up at the mouth of Cedar Creek, I decided to write an article for a journalism class on how newspapers covered the relatively fast-moving and relatively short-lived gold rush. So, I am excited to go up the creek, without a paddle, but on a bus.