Bannack Days returns this weekend

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Leisurely pace

After a COVID cancellation a year ago, Bannack Days returns this weekend with two days of music, food, reenactments and activities. The photo above shows Main Street during the 2019 event. J.P. Plutt photo

A variety of difficulties haunted Bannack State Park over the past decade.

Floods rushed through the National Historic Registry site in 2013 and 2017, causing extensive damage to its impessive array of historic structures.

The COVID pandemic last year scratched Bannack Days, the park’s annual multi-day celebration of frontier life.

But that signature annual event will reemerge this weekend, when 2021 Bannack Days welcomes guests for a series of events and demonstrations designed to show visitors how people lived in the 1860s in the original capital of the Montana Territory.

Though the 2021 Bannack Days set to happen Saturday– Sunday, July 17–18, will likely seem a slightly downsized from the 2019 celebration—at least in terms of the number of performers and demonstrations it offers.

Though it may also seem up-sized this year in terms of the number of attendees it attracts.

“We’re back in the groove,” said Bannack State Park Manager Dale Carlson of preparations for the park’s annual celebration after a year hiatus.

“However, because early on we had some COVID restrictions, a lot of our typical people who participate in the event won’t be coming back this year. So it will be a little smaller than usual,” added Carlson, who had to again face the possibility that this year’s celebration would go the way of last year’s due to COVID considerations.

“We weren’t even sure we could have Bannack Days,” said Carlson of a possibility hanging over a celebration that typically draws around seven thousand people to the remote town, located about 25 miles south of Dillon.

“And this year, it’s probably going to be more because everybody wants to get outdoors.”

The less in terms of attractions that those more people encounter this weekend will include just about everything regulars have come to expect from Bannack Days.

“We’ll have our gunfights by re-enactors. We’ll have food vendors, treat vendors, candle-making demos, wagon rides, an apothecary demonstration, and gold panning—those are some of the main things still going on,” said Carlson of a slate of happenings designed to help visitors appreciate how the town’s residents lived in the years following its founding in 1862.

“It’s a celebration of pioneer life,” said Carlson of a festival that also stages live music performances at various locations around the park’s Town Site.

“We just encourage people to hang out and listen to the music and see some demonstrations and enjoy the food.”

Carlson is also encouraging people to observe social distancing, though no mask mandate will be enforced, and to prepare for hot and dry weather—even with an EMT on site.

“If we had to put one word out,’” said Carlson of advice to those intending to attend Bannack Days, where only limited parking is available, “it would be ‘carpool.’”

Bannack Days posters, with art work by Dillon’s Jim Corr, display the highlights of the celebration. Though ongoing tweaks necessitated by COVID reconsiderations could force adjustments to the schedule, right up until the celebration starts.

“We probably won’t have a final schedule until just before the start of Bannack Days,” said Carlson, who will update the schedule on the park’s website,