Billings had a Berning love for Sen. Sanders on Wednesday night.
A standing room only crowd of 3,008 at MetraPark punctuated Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' every sentence and roared at his call for grassroots political reform.
"What we are doing is shaping America and the Democratic Party. Our agenda is the future of this country!" The Vermont senator said.
The former mayor turned independent senator was in true form with his long stove-piped sleeves displayed in full wingspan and his head somewhat bowed toward the microphone. He displayed full control of a crowd with a tidal roar.
The only time Sanders, 74, drew boos was when he called out the beneficiaries of income inequality. He called out the Walton family, which founded Wal-Mart, for having more wealth than 40 percent of the rest of society.
"A hundred years ago, workers fought for a 40-hour work week and we still haven't achieved a 40-hour work week," Sanders said. "If you work a 40-hour week you should not live in poverty."
His words hit home again and again. More than half the audience raised their hands when he asked who had student loan debt. They cheered at his call for equal pay for women and an increase in the minimum wage, and respect for Native Americans and paid family leave.
As Mimi Lockman, of Red Lodge, observed, what wasn't to like?
"I don't know what he's said you can disagree with," Lockman said, but she still wasn't feeling the Bern.
Lockman wanted to know how Sanders could make the changes he's calling for.
She wanted details. She said she'll vote Democrat in the June 7 primary, but she wasn't sure for whom.
Sanders wanted voters to matter equally, without the large political action committees setting campaign agendas.
"Democracy is you got a vote and you got a vote and you got a vote.
"Democracy is not super PACs buying elections," Sanders said.
He called on voters to stop Republican governors from suppressing the vote.
He called on voters to stay engaged in politics.
"No president, not Bernie Sanders, not Barack Obama, can do it alone," Sanders said.
The presentation was worth the nearly 300 mile roundtrip from Bozeman for Kathleen Byrne. The Montana State University instructor worries about the debt her students are saddled with when they graduate.
"These guys are our future and they have large amounts of student debt to shoulder," Byrne said.
Sanders has proposed the government pay for tuition at public colleges and universities. Byrne credited the senator for not faltering on his message of social reform, for looking at the big picture.
In the back of the Montana Pavilion where the event occured, Samantha Broken Rope sat cradling an infant in one of the few available chairs in the 18,000 square foot venue.
A member of the Crow Tribe, Broken Rope appreciated what Sanders had to say about the United States owing a tremendous debt to Native Americans. The candidate had met with tribal representatives before going on stage.
"We have to give them the respect they're due," Sanders said. "They have contributed so much to our culture, our way of life."
But Broken Rope also liked what Sanders had to say about free college tuition, something American Indians in Montana have, unless they attend school out of state, as her daughter is currently.
The Crow mother was skeptical Sanders could deliver on the education promise, but if he lowered tuition, Broken Rope said she would be happy.
Younger attendees were ecstatic.
"It was freaking awesome," said Addison Wartnow, a 17-year old Billings Senior student.
Wartnow was there with her friend Cairo Morton, a student at Billings Central. "It's nice to see somebody who's trying to change democracy and who tells the truth," said Morton, who is just old enough to vote this year.