All The Info You Need for 2023 Western Montana Fair
With thousands of exhibits, hundreds of them brand new, a long list of fresh activities, and a final hurrah for the old grandstand, this year's Western Montana Fair promises to be full of memories.
But more than that, the event promises to give fair-goers new experiences, a sampling of the fair's future, and more food trucks and vendors than you can count.
The Western Montana Fair opens Wednesday morning and runs through Sunday. And while it's full of your favorites, like rides and fair food, there are also changes to be aware of to have the best experience.
The theme for this year is the "Butterfly Effect", in honor of the new Rocky Mountain Gardens & Exploration Center which will be opening in a few weeks. That construction is still underway and has transformed the northeast corner of the fairgrounds.
There will be no vehicle access or parking through the Main Gate at the Fairgrounds. People are encouraged to use parking and access on the Stephens and Russell Street side of the fairgrounds, with Stephens providing more level access for seniors and those with mobility challenges.
Non-profit groups will once more be offering parking at locations adjacent to the fairgrounds.
The fair is free!
Fair organizers are continuing with the "free gate" approach they adopted before the pandemic. That encourages people to drop in throughout the day, and the weekend.
"It's come and go as you want," explains Billie Ayers, Events and Operations Manager for the Fair. "We have food vendors all the way to South Avenue. You can pull up, grab some food, go home, and come back in the evening. And that's the way the fair is meant to be experienced."
A record number of exhibits
Nearly 1,000 more exhibits will be on display across all parts of the fair, topping last year's record. New exhibits include Bottle Calves, Gems & Minerals, and many more showcasing fabric arts, photography, hobbies, and more.
The newly-renovated "Commercial Building" has switched entirely to non-commercial displays.
Tons of FFA & 4H activities
Shows have been scheduled throughout the fair. The popular Livestock Sale will return in the arena at 8 am Saturday. This year you can learn more about the 4H and FFA members and their preparation at Project Portraits at westernmontanafair.com.
Lots of new activities
There are now two bingo parlors, a new video arcade, and two covered plazas for demonstrations, dancing, and storytelling. And there are more than 30 food vendors to keep your energy up.
Ayers explains that gives organizers work hard to keep a local flavor.
"And Missoula's really unique in that we don't actually bring in any traveling acts or anything as part of our entertainment activities. We use only local people."
Live music and rodeo
Live music starts each night at 5 pm, with arena events beginning at 7 pm. That includes the Missoula Stampede Rodeo and Xtreme Bull Riding, with the Western Montana Fair Hoedown after the rodeo. Sunday, it's free flat track motorcycle racing in the morning, with the "Lords of Dirt" finals at 6 pm in the evening, with freestyle motocross and the "Skurfs" between heats.
Be ready for the weather
Everyone should know about "fair weather". Not "fair" weather, but the rapidly changing conditions that can hit this event in mid-August. That ranges from heat to wind to thunderstorms. You should always be prepared to take shelter or change your plans. Although this year at least, the forecast is looking "fairly" cooperative through the weekend.