By Beth Hutchinson
For the Pathfinder
MAY 21, 1998
As traditional approaches to economic productivity continue to dwindle in the Seeley Swan Valley, new opportunities need to be defined and expanded. The arrival of Memorial Day Weekend signals the beginning of another cycle during which to celebrate our favorite season as well as to cultivate the potential for cultural tourism in our mountain valley.
The Loon and Fish Festival well symbolizes a way to broaden economic development by focusing on tourism and cultural development as natural allies. Now in its sixth year, the festival reveals its formal face on Saturday and Sunday (May 23rd and 24th) when numerous activities are scheduled at the Community Hall and the Seeley Lake Ranger Station.
However, "Fish and Loon" has had a more subtle presence as over the past few months artists created works for the art sale and raffle, school children developed work for displays in local businesses, presentors and demonstrators planned their programs, and signage (posters, banners and display boards) was raised throughout the valley and western Montana.
During the formal two days of the event, however, an especially interesting triangle stands out. Help yourself to quality information. Meet with naturalist experts including fisheries biologist Tim Swanberg talking about "Why it is that bull trout are so interesting" and Montana's Loon Lady Lynn Kelly presenting slides and converstation. Watch woodcarver Patti Bartlett Dunlap, boat builder Charles Grant, pastelist Peggy Grant, potter Bob Korn, chainsaw carver Cindy Torok and basket weaver Eileen Burgess Watson. Listen to "Earth Singer" Christie Pearson.
Participate in mind, body and spirit stretching activities. Go birdwalking and loon viewing with Pat Dolan, Elaine Catton. Create collaborative, community sculpture from recycled materials with Beth Hutchinson. Dance to the drums of "Swirling Rainbows"With Christie Pearson and Kit Paine. Encourage youngsters to create their art with Dani Parcell.
Contribute to the economic welfare of the community. Purchase quality art and craft products from Alpine Artisans members. Buy a bunch of raffle tickets. Donate to see International Wildlife Films. Support the businesses of the Seeley Swan Valley. Make a return visit for another summer weekend or in another season...and bring your friends.
It's a triangle based on three forms of gifting and receiving. It's a triangle that can be drawn over and over without degregation to the environment or harm to the physical body. It's a triangle that can be replicated many times over and still improved upon. It's a triangle that virtually anyone can choose to join in.
From the moment the first tourists join USFS Wildlife Biologists at 8:00 Saturday morning until the last leave the screening in the Community Hall of winners from the International Wildlife Film Festival at about 9:30 Sunday evening, their presence will be benefitting the valley's economy. Still only a small part of their value will have been tapped.
By linking its celebration of our natural heritage with creative human resources, the Loon and Fish Festival continues to explore joyful ways to develop our financial resources. An enduring collaboration embracing artists, environmentalists, tourists, government and business, the festival honors and speaks to the essence and individuality of place without settling for the mindless entertainment experiences usually associated with tourism.