This issue features an article on social wellness. One critical aspect of achieving social wellness is simple participation. But that, of course, requires something to “participate in.” I spoke with a friend recently who imparted to me that “eh, there’s nothing to do on the weekends” when asking him what was on his Saturday agenda. I had to correct him. And then a thought locked into head. How can I prove to Billings that not only are there things to do in Billings, but there are A LOT of things to do? – each, opportunities for social engagement. The idea… go to every event happening in Billings on one day, then write about it! What better way to prove to our readers they have no excuse for being socially unwell (or bored) as a Billings resident.
I looked at the MoFi calendar… then I looked at the updated Billings 365.com calendar, then I admit having read Simply Family Magazine’s calendar (which is a good one). I set my sights on Saturday, September 24th, and counted… twenty-five separate events/activities that were occurring on that day. I announced to my wife and MoFi owner/partner Stephanie that we were going to have an adventure that Saturday – we were going to hit 25 different events that day! She gave me that “you can’t eat the entire protein bar in one bite” look and said, “let’s just try ten.” And thus was born the 10 activities in 10 hours excursion. And this is what we did…
The gym isn’t really an “event” and can’t be counted as one of the 25 unique events happening that day, but the gym experience is indeed a social opportunity and thus is counted as our first stop of the day. (no this is not cheating… as you read on, we hit more than 10 activities). Certainly, the gym should be a place of focus – a place where you go to workout, not chit-chat. But developing casual relationships will happen – and they are pretty cool. Going to the gym the same time every morning reveals a bit of a breakfast club in that the same faces always appear. The common unsaid understanding that “yeah, it is really early, and we are all here” tend to create a culture amongst the regulars. Our friend Bob is one of those regulars. I didn’t want to bother him with a photo so I have included him in the image to the right as a stick figure. (Bob is pretty fit, but not a stick figure.) Bob is just a nice guy, always smiling, and always willing to share a few thoughts. Simple social interaction.
After a shower and breakfast at home, we were off! The Rocky Mountain Sewing and Craft Festival was underway at the Doubletree Hotel downtown. Now keep in mind, this excursion is about the abundance of events there are in Billings, not necessarily events my wife and I would normally attend – like a sewing and craft festival. Unbelievably (to us) we had a blast perusing the myriad of items making up an incredible color pallet. Dresses, baskets, quilts, dolls, and hundreds of unique items blanketed the festival. We met Anthony Reike (pictured) from Bernina Sewing as he demonstrated a truly cool video game-like embroidery machine. He worked it like a machine gunner. We also met Laretta Wittmer (pictured) of Laretta’s Sewing Room, featured at Linda’s Spring Blossom Quilt-n-Sew Shop, whose hand-made doll dresses (which I thought were baby dresses) and baby jumpers (one of which she is holding) were a hit with Steph.
A short walk in the rain down First Ave North then up North Broadway and we were at the Yellowstone Valley Farmer’s Market. The rain kept the crowds down as usually more people attend, but the die hard vendors and veggie hunters weren’t deterred. This is a fun place the visit. Happening every Saturday from July to the first week of October in the downtown area, the Farmer’s Market is a true bounty of great natural food options… and pizza, and crepes, and other stuff that begs tasting. And we tasted. And bought peppers. And met some new people. Bill and Cathy Johnson own a brick fired oven… and they use it. La Carrello (which is Italian for “the Cart”) is the couple’s pizza creation outlet which turns out great standards like sausage and pepperoni as well as the interesting, yet tasty Mushroom and Truffle Pizza. But we weren’t there for pizza… (OK, we ate pizza) We were looking for veggies. And veggies were everywhere. I didn’t know bell peppers came in so many colors. I love bell peppers so I bought one of every color from the Garden Ave Greenhouse and Garden booth owned by Dan and Shelli Gayvert. Located at 219 Garden Ave, their colorful displays of veggies and flowers were like a neon sign yelling eat me! (…don’t eat the flowers.) We grabbed our bag of peppers and took a little walking tour of downtown. I had no idea there were so many stores. Really, is everyone aware that there are over 200 stores downtown?
Up Second Ave and four blocks North on 27th for our next stop – the Yellowstone Art Museum. It was Smithsonian Art Day which is hosted by Smithsonian Magazine where participating museums across the country provide entry to anyone presenting a Museum Day Live ticket. We didn’t have one… but they let us in anyway, and took care of our veggies while we wandered the halls of artwork. The YAM is a showcase for historic and contemporary art from local, national, and internationally renown artists. But even if you are not a fan of painting and sculpture, the building itself is worth the visits. The YAM opened in 1964 in the former Yellowstone County Jail – the entry way of which was preserved as part of the interior. This description of the YAM and its contents is lacking, as this is article is not about art. But I will say, not being a fan of art, I was impressed by more than one image on the wall
The next stop was right where we were – the Calligraphy Workshop at the YAM. Steph and I couldn’t sign up as the class was full! For many, such an endeavor may seem meaningless. Learn calligraphy? Why? Certainly, with the age of technology, perfect penmanship can be mimicked with the proper font. But what I recognized in this workshop was yet another opportunity for social engagement, and in a very unique way. Membership to this little group was afforded by simply signing up. I took a few pictures with the permission of the teacher whose name I didn’t get… but thank you at any rate.
Side Trip – Memorial Gardens. We walked back toward the parking deck and came across something I must have driven by a thousand times… and never noticed. The Montana Purple Heart Veterans Memorial, Memorial Gardens and the Yellowstone Veterans Memorial is not only a sobering site, it is a gorgeous place to sit and ponder. The small image provided in this article don’t do the site justice. It is a place of life that honors those who sacrificed theirs.
The Burger Dive? Never heard of it… yet it has been a staple in downtown for six years now. I’ve eaten at restaurants all over the country, from greasy spoons to five star restaurants… well, one five star restaurant. Without question, the Burger Dive has the best onion rings I’ve ever tasted. And though MoFi is focused on healthy living, and eating, a basked of O-rings every once in awhile is good for your mental health.
Our sixth scheduled event turned out to be a shocker. I convinced Steph to go to the Poetry Slam being held at the Billings Public Library. I used to be an introvert who has become an occasionally crazed extrovert. I like embarrassing myself and participating in a recited original poem event was too good to pass on. I was going to write an eviscerating poem about my arch-enemy… our cat Timmy. (He uses my stomach as a trampoline every night at about 2am). But the event had been cancelled, and that was OK, because what we found at the Library was nothing short of astounding. If you’ve never been there – go! The interior is a piece of art in itself. And vibrant, and full of people –really, this place was active with people from all walks of life. In my wife’s words, “I thought libraries were places where books went to die these days.” Me too. It truly was a shocker to see this place in the middle of our city. The best descriptor of the magical nature of this place, replete with visions of modernity, is one of the hundreds of quotes on the second floor rounder (pictured) looking up to the skylight. “I have always imagined that paradise would be a kind of library.”- Jorge Luis Borges. Steph found that quote, and agreed. The Billings Public Library is a slice of paradise for the avid reader.
Up the road to Pioneer Park and Saturday Live. This is a family centered event sponsored by the Education Foundation of Billings. Sorry for the cop-out, but their website describes the event better than I can: “The Billings community has helped create and mold an event that has evolved into an attraction that no one in Billings should miss out on. From face painting and dunking booths to haunted houses and inflatables, there is something for everyone.” After watching the exciting toilet paper toss event (pictured), we had to move on to event number eight.
Over to the West End we braved the windy cold of Yellowjacket Soccer Field at City College for the second half of the MSUB Women’s Soccer game. They were playing Concordia U. Oregon in a tight match. The larger than expected crowd was “into it” being led by a student in cheers and crowd “waves.” We stuck out the straight line winds to see the game end in a tie. They went to overtime but we were already behind schedule. It turned out they went to two overtimes to finish the game in a tie.
Well, we can’t count the next two because they were a bust. We were too late for the Parks and Rec Fall Canoe Races at Riverfront Parks’ Lake Josephine. It started at 10am and wrapped up before we made it. The first annual race featured racers of all ages navigating buoys. According to the Parks and Rec site, “Creative team names and themed costumes are encouraged. Splashing will be allowed…” Bummer we missed it. A drive up Old Blue Creek Road and we hit another road block – a literal road block. The gate was closed with a sign indicating that the Billings Motorcycle Club’s Fall Hill Climb (motocross) had been cancelled due to weather. This Autumn Hill Climb is one of several annual, world-renown events with hundreds of professional competitors from around the globe. But on our way back, we found another hidden Billings Gem – Norm’s Island and Dog Park. (see the MoFi Trail guide on page 26). A quick hike to see the sights and we decided we had to get moving.
This was the tough one, or so I thought it would be. The event of dread, turned to surprise. The World Class Doll Sale held at the Radisson Hotel was in full swing. The dread… dolls. The surprise, it was actually quite interesting. My wife reminded me that such an event is meaningful to many, even if it seemed, initially, meaningless to me. But in the end, it really was an interesting event. Unfortunately, we were asked not to take pictures as it was a national event with dolls that were worth a lot of money. They did not want images that could be used to replicate such pieces of art.
Fun! The 6th Annual Grape Stomp & Harvest Festival at the Yellowstone Cellars & Winery was a great 10th and final event of the day! We were warmly and enthusiastically greeted by the ladies behind the counter, Sharon and Colleen, smiling ear to ear and giving us the thumbs up to take pictures and mill about. We did not drink wine. Having been at this since 6am, we were afraid that a single glass of spirits would put us to sleep right on the floor. The stompers ranged all ages… but not the drinkers. This was a great place to mingle and meet people.
Ten events in ten hours. And there were a total of 25 to choose from. We actually wanted to continue, but we were in bed by 7pm. I wish I had a more profound concept to share in summation, but I only have this to offer. Billings is awesome. Get out and go! Check our calendar of events for things to do in November and December!