Finally settled in at our new home in Southern Montana. What do we decide to do with our very first free weekend? We wander into the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds in Helena just in time to experience our very first Made in Montana Trade Show. As we walked towards the main hall we were immediately met by a line that quickly began to wrap around the building. Thankfully, there wasn’t much of a wait as we were all huddled together in 30 degree weather as it slowly warmed up and the snow was quickly melting all around us. More than 6,000 consumers were in attendance for this years event.
“I’ve been to this trade show for the past two years and there has never been a crowd like this. I guess it’s a good thing. They’re getting more attention,” said a woman standing behind me in line as she waited with her husband.
Once meeting the main entrance we were greeted by a list of the more than 150 businesses in attendance for the Made in Montana Trade Show this year. The organization supports thousands of local businesses that specialize in goods made in Montana. They are proud of the fact that the products that are made here are also sold everywhere and that 40% of the revenue that is produced comes from out of state distribution. Something could be found for everyone at this years show.
Along with the many businesses that specialize in home grown and manufactured produce were hand crafted art work, apparel and jewelry, and so much more. Tastings could be found in every isle. Accompanied by a crowd of patient natives simply waiting for a sample. Each delectable bite had a flavor all its own. Perfect for accompaniments with your favorite local beverage or speciality food. Here are just some of the many options we encountered:
Hindu Hillbilly Rivulet Apiaries specializes in making raw honey, skin care products, oils, soaps and scrubs, and beeswax luminaries. As the bee’s housed in this Missoula apiary thrive on knapweed, clovers and wildflowers, four different types of raw Montana honey were on display and available for tasting from this fantastic vendor. My favorite of this unfiltered, unheated glob of goodness was the Osha Elderberry. It was a smooth taste with a subtle sweet flavor that you could enjoy with anything. I would definitely enjoy it in some tea or even on top of some vanilla ice cream.
You wouldn’t believe my excitement when I found these distributors:
As a newly discovered wheat intolerant individual, finding gluten free options in Montana have been a little challenging. this family owned business has put it all together to make gluten-free all natural non-gmo eating easier! There are cook books, recipes, ingredients and ready made merchandise directly from Gluten-Free Prairie. Apparently this vendor was a returning favorite! People were swarming to their booth to pick up products they have already come to love and were talking about how excited they were to see the company here again and how much they love the cookies! You can actually follow Deb’s gluten-free friendly blog at www.notevenacrumb.com for tips on adapting to a gluten-free lifestyle.
Changing things up a little bit. We found this BBQ sauce among various others at the trade show, but what really stood out for its flavor is the sweet traditional flavor that goes well with pulled pork or even fish. As we were tasting the sauce on crackers with cheese I stopped to realize that this sauce would be truly delectable as a sauce alternative for pizza! The sweet bbq taste would be the perfect base for a bbq chicken pizza with loaded toppings of any fancy. I know for some it might be blasphemous, but I have to say it! This would even be awesome with a pineapple topped pizza!
People were swarming for samples of this old time favorite. The company has been in operation for decades. Sells the one product that has never changed its recipe. Apparently when you get it done right the first time its best to keep it as it is. Pauline’s is a one woman show and she’s been doing quite well for herself.
Now, everyone laughed when I found this next vendor. Roots Kitchen and Cannery was covered with wholesome jarred produce that is healthy, and not only tastes good but soothes the soul. On display were jams and pickled veggies. So I immediately saw the beets and had to ask, “So do these taste like dirt? No matter how anyone makes beets they still taste like dirt.”
My husband answered behind me, “Yes, that earthy taste is one that could be lacking in the desire department.”
The vendor quickly chuckled and told me, “Absolutely not. These are quite delicious,” and insisted I try them. He wasn’t kidding! No earthy flavor or after taste! They were actually quite good. I could totally see myself enjoying them as a snack. The vendor offered recipes to use with the products they had on display for cooking various meats, using their products as side dishes, or even adding them to sandwiches for a twist in the traditional.
I have yet to see anyone beat these beets! Very happy I found them and will be looking forward to continuing my patronage with them.
On the sweeter side, we found Pine Mountain Candies covered in chocolates and caramels. These chocolaty deserts are are creatively named for unique characteristics identifiable with Montana life. We found the candy to be a bit pricey, but we didn’t know what we were missing as we didn’t get to try any of them. Apparently the company is doing very well! They’ve survived 25 years and distribute to various places across the country.
The candies can be purchased in jars and boxes for gifts and bulk sized orders. If anything, the creative names of the chocolates is what stands out the most with this company: Huckleberry Grande’s, The Black Country Baar, The Walleye Baar, The Old Goat Baar and so much more.
If you’re looking for sweets but don’t want to be tempted by all the guilt that comes with those empty calories you can always imagine you’re delighting in decadence with Shannon’s Country Bumpkins candles instead. They’re shaped like flavorful deserts, jarred, and offered as decorative decor for the home. Maybe the look and smell will suffice for that sweet tooth?
Maybe not… but she has made the largest mason jar candles I’ve ever seen! Some of her inventory come with wooden wicks. The candles are soy based and safe. All hand made and absolutely adorable. Add in their collection of beauty and bath supplies and you’ve made yourself an at home spa. Very cute supply.
She wasn’t the only vendor with such products. There were at least two others that had bath bombs shaped like cupcakes and cake pieces; soaps; lotions and more. All hand crafted and made with love.
Here’s another larger vendor that I found selling toiletries that had a bit of a humorous twist to them:
And then there’s the spicy. There were lots of options for people that want a little spice in their lives. Our new found favorite of the hot sauce infusions is Arthur Wayne Hot Sauce. Their small batches of sauce made from all natural ingredients and locally grown peppers (where possible) had amazing flavors in every bottle. It’s not only about the heat. The mixture of herbs and sauce with the peppers give each type of sauce they sell a distinct flavor that meets any hot sauce lovers taste buds. I’m more of a milder gal myself and the Mango Habanero was as far as I would go, but the Spicy Tomatillo had great flavor and would go fantastically with any grilled red meats. My husband went home with the XXX Carolina Reaper Haba Haba “Dime” Sauce, which was the most hot sauce they were offering at the trade show, and their new flavor.
There is also a Huckleberry Ghost and Scorpion Pineapple flavored hot sauce that we have yet to try. As the names of the sauces get more eerie the Scoville units apparently do as well. Thankfully, unlike many other sauces that prioritize the heat, they do not sacrifice taste.
Another tasty treet that is sold primarily as a beverage, can also be used for marinading meats: Parker’s Hangover Tonic was originally intended to be the answer to finding the best bloody mary mix. It started as a small idea that quickly became a large project and has been thriving since 2010.
The ingredients for this blend basically make up a flavorful horseradish hot sauce that can be used for more than just bloody mary’s. Definitely not as health conscious. Worth the cheater moment.
Tired of food? I know it seems like a lot of a little things all over the place. So much more cool stuff to show off!
I, of course, am particular partial to the artists and there surely was not a shortage of talented individuals showing off their work. John Ashley is a fellow photographer specializing in the fine arts and hails from Kila, Montana. I loved his images of animals in their natural habitats and the vibrant colors he maintains in his photographic style. In respect for his photographic work I did not take a picture of the booth, so instead please visit his official web page to admire his pieces at www.JohnAshleyFineArt.com
I had managed to catch Jeff and Heather off guard as they were trying to take a snack break through all the bodies trying to make their way into their unique booth that displayed their many custom made signs that are created from recycled up wood and given new life as home decor. The beauty in the aged wood makes all the difference. Each piece has an antique distressed look that adds to the rustic wilderness feel. Their signs and silhouette’s bring the outdoors home.
Talk about sporting wood; this guy’s got some beauties.
I immediately fell in love with his wine box that he is holding up in the picture as part of his display for the Made in Montana Trade Show. Lined with red velvet, the boxes are custom designed for gifts and hand crafted from various types of wood that the company gets from a local supplier just three miles from their workshop. Many options are offered for wood types, all stained for a natural look. These growler girdles are brilliant: they protect the growlers, keep the beer fresher a little bit longer because they aren’t as exposed to light through the glass, and have an awesome look to them. I’m half tempted to see if they work for river/lake floating and help the bottles float along with the rafts… Too expensive of a challenge. Wouldn’t want to ruin the hand craftsmanship. Eric, if you’re reading this, please consider that for a new product option? Maybe the markets already been taken.
Another amazing craftsman, Michael Meissner, works with wood and various other mixed media for displaying his print work and custom artwork.
These electric guitars are taken apart for the whittled detail and then put back together. Michael carves through both sides of the pieces and leaves subtle surprises in each piece. We were also admiring the many hiking staffs that were on display in his collection. The staffs made from populous wood were my favorite. Light weight, soft, yet strong.
Sharon Wald was also present as a vendor for the Made in Montana Trade Show. Featuring her mixed media art work that displayed her prints in hand crafted frames that use nature for a three dimensional effect with her drawings of local wildlife. Her series is called “Making Tracks.”
Stepping away from the traditional art, we found an amazing group of women who work with glass. Mary Harris is another artist that works with mixed media to create home decor that is both large and small: from lighting, to coffee tables and more.
Sharing her booth with friends of similar talents, Mary was featuring pieces by Lynn Knight alongside her work (who is holding a votive candle holder that she enjoys making with her spare time). Lynn also makes larger pieces of similar design for chandeliers and light fixtures. As Lynn said, “The glow of the light makes all the difference.” Regardless, every piece from each of these ladies is hand made and custom designed. These quick pic’s don’t do them justice. They’re absolutely gorgeous in person.
Now, for the story teller:
Jacob has made quite an impact on the young readers of today. Mr. James Sticka let us know that his readers truly admire his book so much that they often send him thank you cards for writing his book. As we left his booth he was quickly greeted by a young lady who looked to be about 9 years old. She quickly told James how much she admired his story and asked for an autograph, which James happily obliged. Jacob goes on an unexpected adventure through the woods as he attempts to escape the clutches of a giant in this first book that Sticka intends to expand into three novels, according to his promotional page.
Unlike most other writers, James has committed to contributing all of his profits to children’s charities throughout the United States should the book do well in publication. Children were the inspiration for writing the story and he feels that they deserve the benefit in his appreciation for their spirit. The book is recommended for ages 3 and up. It is an easy read and very well detailed. Illustrations by Shane Morgan. Truly an old fashioned bedtime story that stirs together simple life, before the industrial revolution, with the Hans Christian Anderson type of fairytale theme. Though, that might not be fairly stated, since the internet documents history of giants existing before the settlement of Europeans in the U.S. as Native Americans drove them from this land and remains of their large bones were all that was left to be found. Maybe this truly can be considered an original western-american fairytale as it was passed down from generation to generation. James is very eager to receive feedback from others. Visit his website and tell him what you think of his story.
If anything, this book is about taking on a new adventure. What better way to have an adventure than to go exploring through the wilderness that surrounds us everyday. Hike734 was among the groups promoting their detailed hiking guides at the trade show Saturday.
For guides on hiking Yellowstone, Zion, and various other national parks and recreational areas throughout the country, Jake’s website is definitely one worth visiting. He explained to a guest that he hikes through specific trails, taking detailed notes and pictures, and publishes the information a year later for other people to take the opportunity to experience the trails as well. His best selling hiking books have detailed maps and information for the traveler to take advantage of as they are exploring through the wild. His attention to detail was what got me most.
Not last, and not least, we found this Medicine Springs Mineral Therapy company sporting red long johns at the end of one of the isle-ways telling people how to take baths.
The Medicine Springs team established their bath salt combinations with the specific intent to naturally help people suffering from specific pains and conditions that can be soothed and helped through proven treatments from various natural hot springs that were said to have healing properties around the world. This water was tested for chemical aspects that have proven to help the body heal and implemented in the creation of the products displayed.
Brandon and Julie had a rolling bath on display for people to rest their hands in to see wha the product can do for consumers. Brilliant idea. Bring the hot springs home.
Finally, saving the best for last, as a new member to the community I just discovered the Helena Industries non-profit organization at one of the booths at the Made in Montana event. This organization offers vocational rehabilitation and employment services for improving the growth of individuals with special needs. The organization has been in operation in Montana since 1970 and maintains its headquarters in Helena, Montana. Products provided by the organization include wood work, textiles, mailings and other tasks that are intended to help businesses with custom solutions for their service needs.
All in all, this trade show was definitely a lot of fun! From the looks of this years turn out it is very likely that the venue may need a bigger space to satisfy the demand for next year. With more than 6,000 people in attendance this year and only a fraction of the vendors available for display this event could continue to boom in popularity in the short time between each annual show. Looking forward to what next year has to offer.