19 February 2009


literally, "let the good times roll", the motto of new orlean's version of mardi gras , which begins next tuesday, 24 february. there are a number of signature regional cultural events i've never had the pleasure of attending, and mardi gras is one -- along with the annual bikers' rally in sturgis, SD; the mummers' parade in philadelphia (shame on me, since i lived in suburban philly for four years); and on and on. i have had the good fortune to attend several concerts during the charleston, SC, spoleto festival, including a performance by the incomparable guitarist and true gentleman, mr. chet atkins.

i do, however, claim bragging rights for an annual three-day festival that many of you have never heard of. my home town, conrad, MT, hosts a celebration called Whoop-Up Trail Days, which takes its name from the route taken by whiskey runners from fort hamilton, alberta, canada to fort benton, montana, during the years of prohibition. conrad lies on or near that smugglers' path, but the annual fete, which is held in late spring, isn't so much about booze, as it is about celebrating the history and solidarity of a small and shrinking farming community. our once-legendary parade has diminished in size a bit over the years -- i was part of the parade a number of times, first on the boy scouts' float, and later playing my french horn in the conrad high school marching band. back in the day, the parade also included a number of equestrian groups, dozens of classic cars (dating back as far as ford model Ts) and farm equipment, clowns, balloons, bison burgers, and lots of pretty girls from all over. i wasn't noticing the pretty boys at the time, but the girls had my attention.

though i've returned to my home state four years ago, i haven't yet made it up to whoop-up. maybe this year.

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