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Chokecherry Festival, Lewistown, Montana

For over 30 years, the good people of Lewistown have been celebrating their crown jewel, the chokecherry. This sour fruit provides locals with syrups, jellies, jams, wines, and more throughout their central Montana seasons, but it also works overtime to bring an entire community together.

The Chokecherry Festival in Lewistown happens annually on the first Saturday after Labor Day, the perfect convergence of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and deep autumn hues.

Sure, we love to congregate around anything that involves pancakes and syrup, so we’ve got a soft spot for the early morning Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast that kicks this festival off with a bang.

But it’s the food, drinks, craft vendors, and live music that make Chokecherry Fest a lively experience for over 5,000 people annually.

If you like running, this celebration provides plenty of opportunities to hit that dopamine high, but you’ll also find local and nearby breweries at your disposal if lounging with friends is more your speed (They both sound like fun to us!).

And be prepared, because if you have kids, they’ll most likely leave with a face painting and a sticky face – but we don’t mind.

Planning to stay in town for a few more days? Originally home to the Blackfeet Indians, Lewistown blossomed during a gold rush and lies in the heart of Big Sky Country, but that’s not its only claim to fame.

Take a train ride on the Charlie Russell Chew Choo, which is exactly what it sounds like: a 56 mile train ride through beautiful landscapes with delicious food and wild, western entertainment.

There are also numerous hiking trails in the area (Limekiln and Crystal Cascades!), but we love checking out the nearby Bear Gulch Pictographs for an impressive insight into the cave art done by ancient indigeneous people of the region.

So, grab your nearest chokecherry wine, and let’s go over the details of this lively weekend activity, plus some of our favorite accommodations. 

Chokecherry Festival Event Details

chokecherry event
Image: lewistownchokecherry

Thanks to generous city sponsors, this festival is completely free – but you’re going to want to load up on some dollars to support the arts & crafts vendors, as well as the numerous food vendors. Trust us – it’s worth it!

Facilities

chokecherry facilities
Image: lewistownchokecherry

We love the chokecherry fruit in all of its variations, but that’s not the only reason to come to this similarly bold festival.

Let’s learn a bit more about some of the events that make the Chokeberry Festival an annual reset for travelers and locals alike.

Pancakes, Run, & More

Yes, you heard us right: pancakes! Calling all early risers: there’s a 7:00am pancake breakfast put on by the Kiwanis Club – with all the chokecherry syrup you can handle!

Since it’s an outdoors breakfast situation, go ahead and pile up on All You Can Eat pancakes, sausage, eggs, bacon, and juice. It’s a classic American breakfast with a nice little central Montana twist of that zingy fruit we all got in line for.

Also a huge turnout? The multiple running Chokeberry Fest running options. Starting at 9 am, choose from the 5K run or the 10K, depending on your level of bravery.

There are a couple more options for those who just want a hint of dopamine: the 1 Mile Fun Run starting at 10:00 am, which paces you 2 and a ¼ times around City Park, or the adorable 5K 12 and Under run starting at Frank Day Park at the same time.

If you’re interested in participating, you’ll want to sign up at the designated website and just remember that dogs aren’t allowed to run with you, no matter how much they’d love it.

Want to support the arts? There are so many opportunities to support local and traveling artisans at their booths lining the entirety of Main Street.

From ceramics, bakeries, homemade chokecherry jellies and jams, blacksmithing, handmade jewelry, and – of course – chokecherry lemonade, and more, you’ll want to bring a reusable shopping bag to carry all of your new goodies home.

And then, there’s our favorite Chokecherry swan song, the Trails & Ales, a great beer tasting benefit that supports local Montana craft breweries – and let’s be honest, there are enough breweries in Montana for three Trails & Ales!

Held at the Lewistown Trailhead and Creekside Marketplace, this Chokecherry event features live music and entertainment from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm, as well as brewers from all over the state.

Tickets are $25 per person and sold on-site with a souvenir mug, so you won’t have to use your insulated mug from home.

Whether you’re more interested in Madison River Brewing or the local Big Spring Brewing, you’ll find something delicious and thirst-quenching for everyone – 21 and up, of course (Don’t miss out on the opportunity to try Big Spring’s Mayfly Rye or their seasonal Chokecherry Lager!).

Food, Merch, & More

All this talk about drinks is making us hungry! What else is there to eat, besides chokecherry jams and syrups? Well, plenty! With countless food and drink vendors, you’ll find something for everyone in the family. In past years, we’ve seen Indian tacos, churros, BBQ, and delicious Asian-inspired Thai and Chinese food. 

Bring those stretchy, elastic pants because there’s usually some variety of ice cream, cakes, and – our favorite – chokecherry lemonades and chokecherry syrup-infused ice creams. You get it: we’re all about these puckery berries!

Looking for some Chokecherry Fest merch to brag about come Monday? There’s no official merch to date, but you’ll find cups a-plenty if you participate in drinking activities.

You can’t go wrong with picking up some gifts from local and traveling vendors, though – that’s the merch that’s really going to get people talking!

Miscellaneous

You’ll find great live entertainment the whole day through, from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm, when the electrical and jovial Trails & Ales gets started.

What makes the entertainment aspect of this festival so special? It’s hyper-local, meaning all of the performers are either from the area or used to live in the area. That said, they know what locals want in a show – and they deliver!

Whether it’s country and western, Americana, alternative, or folk-pop, you’ll find a surprisingly versatile lineup at Chokecherry – and that’s because this festival attracts a huge number of people into the area annually.

You’ll also find some great children’s activities at the festival, from coloring to face painting to balloon characters – and that 12 and under run (Let’s not forget about the chokecherry lemonade!).

Also, be on the lookout for alpacas – your littles will love the opportunity to get close to these furry friends.

Speaking of furry friends, we’ve already mentioned that pets aren’t allowed to participate in the run, although we know a few greyhounds who’d enjoy it immensely.

While there are no rules against bringing your furry loved ones to the festival, please be mindful of other peoples’ space and make sure Fido has lots of water! They won’t get by on chokecherry lemonade alone!

As for parking, the entirety of Main Street will be closed down, so keep that top of mind when choosing parking. But depending on the weather, it should be a great fall day for downtown bike rides, or community rideshare.

Accommodation

accommodation

The Chokecherry Festival is one of the biggest events of the year in small-town Lewistown, which means you might not be the only one looking for accommodations.

But we have a few favorites in and around town that’ll help you rest your feet after a long arm-in-arm stroll down Main Street with 5,000 new neighbors.

If you like to nod off in historic locations on your road travels, we recommend the Calvert Hotel in downtown Lewistown, a newly renovated vision of beauty that was originally built in 1917 as a dormitory for visiting ranch children.

The Calvert does a great job of illuminating those vintage touches from the early 20th century while clearly updating to a modern aesthetic (Also doesn’t hurt that it’s close to the 406 Cafe!).

We’re also big fans of the more quaint Yogo Inn, which has its own restaurant and bar if you’re not reeling from all those festival drinks.

It’s been around since 1962, so its staff knows a thing or two about the best outdoor spots for fishing or lounging. And like the Montana sapphire it’s named for, it shines most with its amenities, like an indoor pool and spa.

Otherwise, you’ll find plenty of cute, rustic spaces with great amenities, our clear favorite being the Judith Mountain Lounge. They have the best and most diverse selection of cozy, spacious rooms – perfect for a good night’s sleep after the craziness of the Chokecherry Festival.

 

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