Saturday, June 13, 2009

Great Falls market and lots of rhubarb

Today I headed north to the Conrad Rhubarb Festival and stopped in Great Falls on the way to check out the market.

Altogether I was on the road for 12 hours. It was a lot of driving and a long day, but then when I lived near Seattle and commuted to work, I'd be gone that long from home every day. This was a much more pleasant driving experience.

Great Falls is a big city (population 56,690) and so it has a big farmers market that covers a couple of blocks.

It even has a pony ride! Small children climb aboard and with supervision circle a tiny grass-filled square. I can imagine it is quite an experience. The line was pretty long.

Speaking of lines, the longest was at the Navajo fry bread stand. I was there about 10 am, so this must have been breakfast for these folks. You'll have to excuse the poor photo -- I could not possibly have gotten the whole line in anyway. But you get the idea.

When I arrived in Conrad, about an hour north, I saw another long line for fry bread. What is it with fry bread? Someone told me it might be that this is something you can't really make at home (without a big mess and paltry results -- I've tried in the past myself) and so perhaps folks take advantage of it when they see it. Well, OK. But I'll tell you, these were really long lines.

measuring a rhubarb leaf

Although it was Whoop-Up Days in Conrad -- and their centennial to boot -- I was in town for the Rhubarb Festival. Turns out it is simply added on to the festivities with the hope that more people will check out the rhubarb because they're already in the area whooping it up. (In fact the festival name comes from the Whoop-Up Trail that once passed through the area.)

To get to the rhubarb, I had to cross the street during a parade (a very long and enthusiastic parade) and maneuver between vendor booths on the sidewalk. I finally ended up in a tiny room adjacent to a small cafe on the main street.

There was plenty to eat. I tucked into a rhubarb pie ala mode topped with rhubarb-strawberry sauce. Very delish.

A table was set up with pies to judge, and also displayed were some of the largest rhubarb leaves I ever care to see. They actually frightened me. I think the winning leaf was almost a yard wide.

I headed home happily filled with rhubarb. It wasn't the most exciting food festival I've been to, but it certainly was sincere, and the emphasis definitely was on food. Unlike some festivals I've been to where you couldn't find the celebrated food to save your life.

Great Falls Farmers Market
Civic Center Park, at the end of Central Avenue
June 6 - September 26
Saturday, 7:45 am - noon
July 8 - September 23
Wednesday, 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

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