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The 33rd annual Holiday Food and Gift Festival brings to Billings what Black Friday and Cyber Monday cannot: products from businesses across Montana, Wyoming and beyond.

Held Nov. 10-11 at the Expo Center at MetraPark, vendor space is booked full with more than 200 booths selling special treats for anyone in the family.

As the event name suggests, food and gifts are the festival’s focus. Area food trucks bring their talents indoors for lunch, so there’s no reason to stop shopping when hunger sets in. Plus, many vendors provide samples that not only satiate but encourage a purchase.

Flathead Lake Cheese Company is making its second appearance at the festival, bringing more of what sold out last year, including wasabi cheese curds. Event organizer Amanda Lechner Sanderson says the cheese company is teaming up with other Montana-made product vendors to create gift baskets filled with bread sticks, meat, and of course, cheese.

New to the festival this year is Granrud’s Lefse Shack. The Scobey-based business is known for its Norwegian bread made from a 41-year-old traditional recipe.

Besides food, there will be jewelry, clothing, direct sales booths, a children’s book author and handmade furniture. But that doesn’t come close to describing the variety found at the festival.

“A lot of these items—this is the only place you can get them besides ordering on their website,” Lechner Sanderson said. “I have vendors that come from all over the country.”

More than 12,000 people attended the two-day festival last year, including out-of-state shoppers. Lechner Sanderson says attendance increases annually and she expects 2018 to be no different.

“We encourage people to bring the whole family out,” said Lechner Sanderson. “There’s dancers; you can get your picture taken with Santa.”

Santa makes an exclusive appearance at the festival; he can’t be found anywhere else in town. And there’s face painting, live entertainment, ice cream and alpacas to keep kiddos occupied. Yes, Alpacas of Montana will bring their furry brood to the show.

The festival opens to shoppers at 9 a.m., Saturday, closing at 6 p.m. Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday shoppers who want a second day of browsing and buying earn a free admission pass for Sunday. Anyone who brings a non-perishable item for donation to Billings Food Bank gets in at a discounted $1 admission rate. General admission is $3.

Lechner Sanderson emphasizes that the festival is the Food Bank’s largest “food-raiser” of the year. It ensures that their shelves and food baskets are ready ahead of the holidays.

More event details can be found by following Holiday Food & Gift Festival on Facebook or by visiting holidayfoodandgiftfestival.com.

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Niche Publications

Senior Editor for Niche Publications of the Billings Gazette