The Christmas season in the Upper Blackfoot Valley is likely to look a bit less festive this year, as COVID-19 precautions take their toll on events.
Among the casualties this year are Ovando’s Old West Christmas Fest and Lincoln’s annual Christmas Bazaar.
Leigh Ann Valiton, one of the organizers of the Old West Christmas Fest, said social distancing requirements were among the primary reasons Ovando opted to call off their annual celebration.
Valiton said the impact on the craft show, which is held every year in the Ovando School Gym, was a big factor in the decision.
“We wouldn’t be able to socially distance very well and monitor it,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like Christmas Fest is complete without the craft show.”
Valiton said there were also concerns about being able to socially distance on the wagon rides that take visitors on trips around the small town, and during the popular visti by Cowboy Claus, which in a normal year sees parents and kids crowd into the Brand Bar Museum for photos with Santa’s wild west cousin.
“It just made sense not to do it,” Valiton said. “I feel like this year people will understand why it happened. Hopefully next year we’ll be over it, and it’ll be bigger than ever.”
Valiton said there is talk of having a Christmas decorating contest around Ovando, but they haven’t formulated details yet. “But we will decorate downtown. That I know.”
Likewise, Lincoln’s Annual Christmas Bazaar has also been called off due to Lewis and Clark County Public Health Restrictions and liability concerns.
The Helmville Christmas Craft Bazaar is bucking the trend, however.
“We decided to go ahead as we think we are able to meet the governor's orders for physical distancing, masks, keeping the numbers to 50 in each spot,” Maureen Mannix told the BVD.
The addition of a third venue is key to both spreading out the participating vendors and keeping the number of people in each building down to a 50-person limit.
“We won't be having our chili and pies; but some sack lunches and other items for purchase that can be sold separately,” Mannix said. “We are hoping to have some outside seating for the younger generations if they wish to eat their lunches in the chilly Montana air predicted for next Sunday.”
About 29 vendors are expected to take part in the bazaar due to the precautionary measures the community has taken.