One of my many favorite things about Montana is small town tradition, and it doesn’t get much smaller than the communities of Geraldine, Fort Benton, Loma, Virgelle and Big Sandy. Each year during the first weekend of December, these towns celebrate the holidays with an event called Chouteau County Country Christmas by hosting a series of craft fairs, bake sales, parades and food bizarres strung throughout the county. There are visits from Santa, a parade of lights, a “Christmas Church Tour”, live nativity scene and many other festive activities. Food consists of everything from Senior Citizen’s Club Spaghetti Dinners and the Masonic Temple’s “Taste of Chocolate” to more Women’s Club bake sales than you can shake a stick at. Don Sorensen and Jimmy Griffin, owners of the Virgelle Mercantile, lure shoppers off of Highway 87 with their famous popcorn balls and delicious Tom & Jerry’s—along with bank building (yes, literally, a historic bank) and a two-story general mercantile full of gorgeous antiques.
I was lucky enough to document the Chouteau County Christmas and all its charm a few years ago. Our holidays now revolve around my three kiddos, but while they’re still little, I need to make a point of bringing them here.