Discovering Small Town America at the Creamery Picnic Parade

This article may contain referral links. Read our DISCLOSURE

Slow Travel. Authentic Experiences. In my reading on the Internet, these buzzwords appear in almost every article that dissects boomer travel habits. Where do you find these authentic adventures? Throughout the spring, summer and fall (and sometimes winter), there’s a festival or celebration happening across small town America. How do you find them? Before Alan and I leave home, we click on the visitor’s bureau website (or the chamber of commerce) of the towns we’ll be passing through to check out upcoming events and festivals like this Bitterroot Valley calendar in Montana.

Main Street in Stevensville, Montana.
Waiting for the Creamery Picnic Parade to begin in Stevensville, Montana.

While I’m not suggesting that you plan your trip specifically around a small town festival, weaving one or two into your itinerary will introduce boomers to the vibrant rural communities that still thrive in America. Come along with me on a photo essay of the 99th Annual Creamery Picnic Parade in Stevensville, Montana to see what I mean:

In 1911, the co-op creamery in Stevensville, Montana burned to the ground. Manager John Howe told the community that if they helped rebuild the creamery within 30 days, he would host the biggest celebration that they had ever seen. Today, the Creamery Picnic is a two-day event. The festivities include athletic contests, entertainment, craft and vendor booths, barbecue championship and a parade down Main Street honoring outstanding citizens of the year.

Rodeo queens parade down Main Street in Stevensville, Montana.
Rodeo Queens of the Year

Stevensville is a ranching and farming community in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. From young riders to rodeo queens, the parade hosts a large horse contingent.

Children at the Creamery Picnic Parade in Stevensville, Montana.
Youngsters swap high-fives with a Shriner

Children line the streets to catch the candy thrown from the floats and by parade participants. One business handed out ice cream bars, a crowd favorite on a hot summer day.

Antique car rolls down Main Street at the Creamery Picnic Parade in Stevensville, Montana.
Historic car rides down Main Street

Boomer car buffs will find plenty to oogle as historic cars, muscle cars and everything in between parade down Main Street. Vintage car shows are a popular element of festivals in the Bitterroot Valley.

An antique tractor joins the Creamery Picnic Parade in Stevensville, Montana.
Now it’s time for the tractor brigade

When Lewis and Clark passed through Stevensville on their way to the Pacific, I doubt that they saw any tractors. But you’ll find plenty of them in the Creamery Picnic Parade. And the sweet smell of hay permeates the valley air as the crop is cut and baled.

Firetruck at the Creamery Picnic Parade in Stevensville, Montana.
A firetruck wails down Main Street

Sirens blasting, firetrucks and emergency vehicles from throughout the area bring the 99th Annual Creamery Picnic Parade to a rousing conclusion.


Scratch those itchy travel feet!

Boomer travelers rely on our weekly email newsletter for fresh travel inspiration, tips, and advice. It's free! No spam, unsubscribe anytime.