When I tell people that I lived in a town called Shelby, MT for the summer they automatically exclaim how lucky I am to have lived in such a beautiful place. They then ask me if I enjoyed the mountains and trees. This is where the conversation becomes awkward because I usually reply, “Sure! When I drive two hours west to go see them.” I normally receive blank stares after this response. When people think of Montana they usually think of mountains, big trees, sparkling lakes, beautiful small creeks or roaring rivers complete with rapids. They think about movies such as Legends of the Fall and A River Runs Through It and think that all of Montana looks like that. Guess what? It doesn’t. In fact a large portion of Montana is prairie-land and that is the area where Shelby, MT resides in.
When I first arrived in Shelby for a visit a few years back, it was at night. I remember driving up Interstate 15 with my parents and seeing very few lights on the way up from Great Falls, MT where the closest airport resides. The next morning, my dad calls me and asks if I’d like to join him for lunch at a local eatery. He tells me to meet him there and take the extra car. I don’t understand how I could possible navigate in a town I’ve never seen and he tells me, I’ll find it and not to worry…so I don’t. So I drive out for the first time in this town and see what I missed the night before. A quaint little town nestled near a river valley in what appears to be rolling hills with a view of the mountains in the distance. Heaven. I fell in love with the scenery immediately never really seeing anything quite like it. Of course I went a few blocks down the hill, took a right on Main St and found the restaurant in less than five minutes.
Later that evening I go out with my parents to the local watering holes and meet some locals. I had never felt so welcome in a town I just barely visited ever. The residents of Shelby are some of the nicest people I have ever come across and know how to have a good time as well! I left feeling not like a visitor but a member of this wonderful town that has adopted my family with ease and love.
I visited Shelby every summer since that first visit and finally found myself moving there at the tail end of winter last year. I got a job at the Marias Valley Golf Course as a bartender and met many more wonderful locals. The Marias Valley Golf course opens its fairways up for business every March 1st and stays open til the end of November, weather permitting. An 18 hole course, it is found in the beautiful Marias River Valley and is easily one of the best courses this state has to offer. As I worked there, I made friends my age whom invited me to the first of many anticipated events of the year, Cinco de Mayor.
Mayor Larry Bonderud finds himself celebrating his birthday the day before the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo. Deciding to make an event out of this, he came up with Cinco de Mayor, a large party thrown in the local Elk’s Club every year complete with door prizes, a band, dinner, Margarita bar, and goofy buttons featuring the Mayor. Now why would he do this you might ask? Simple. He uses the money raised for purchasing tickets to this event to make Shelby a beautiful and welcoming town. “The funds are used to help purchase flowers for planters on Main Street as well as for planters located in the parks. We also use the funds to purchase Christmas decorations for business areas”, Mayor Bonderud said. “Come see us this year on Saturday May 7th!”
I had so much fun last year at this event. I was impressed yet again at how wonderfully the town came together for such an event. Shelby residents young and old all found themselves enjoying the live band and limbo contest. I even met a former Shelby resident who currently resides in New York come all the way home to help celebrate.
That was the kickoff event for a series of fun celebrations found throughout summer there. The Marias Valley Golf Course held many golf tournaments open for everyone who was willing to participate and the fairly new Bear River Boogie festival helped kick off Shelby Centennial this year as well. Every year the fair and rodeo make an appearance as well. If you find yourself in Shelby during New Year’s Eve, stop by Lyn’s Body Shop near the fairgrounds for a great New Year’s Eve celebration in what locals call Lyn’s Car Bar. Everyone is always invited. That’s just how it is. So if you ever find yourself in Shelby, MT, stay for a night and wander into the Tap Room or Montana Club and have a beer with a local. It will be an unforgettable treat.