Those who visited the 16th annual Harvest Fest in downtown Billings Saturday were glad to see a significant difference in the weather compared to last year’s.
Last year, the event saw about 3 inches of snow and freezing temperatures. During Harvest Fest this year, the skies were clear and sunny, with high temperatures in the 50s.
The event, located under Skypoint at Broadway and Second Avenue North, took place Saturday and featured a variety of food trucks, a kids' fun zone, a pumpkin pie baking contest, a beer garden hosted by Montana Brewing Company, a gift basket raffle donated by downtown businesses, and live entertainment throughout the day.
Professional sculptor Jeff Schaezle was able to show off his pumpkin carving skills at the event and advertise his small business, Pints and Pumpkins. During October, Schaezle hosts carving parties at Billings breweries where participants can carve pumpkins while enjoying a beer.
“I say, ‘Just sip your beer and become one with the pumpkin.’ And they do,” Schaezle said. “I’ve seen some amazing pumpkins.”
Last year, Schaezle couldn’t carve anything because it was so cold at the event. His wife, who owns a candy business called Chickadee Tweets, continued to sell her products in the cold despite the few people who attended the event.
Schaezle said he was a little worried about how this year would turn out.
“Because of the way last year was, the number of people were down,” he said. “There were still people here, but when I walked around to see how the other vendors were doing, they were huddled in a corner. You couldn’t even tell what they had because there was so much snow on their products.”
Jessica Hays owns Bozeman Balloon Twisters and travels around Montana to different festivals to make balloon animals and hats for kids. The tips that she makes through her small business help her through college.
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She’s participated in Harvest Fest for four years and has practiced her craft for 12 years.
“Last year, I didn’t even make it because it took us an hour-and-a-half to get from Bozeman to Livingston and we decided it was too dangerous, so we turned around,” Hays said.
While last year was especially challenging, this year’s event saw more people and vendors, said Lindsay Richardson, event director with the Downtown Billings Alliance.
“It’s the weekend after Farmer’s Market ends, so it’s kind of the last hurrah of outdoor festivals,” Richardson said.
This year, vendors were able to connect with more customers under the sun.
“Last year was 32 degrees and snowing from start to finish,” Richardson said. “So it was really cold and the vendors definitely did take a hit.”
There were about seven or eight more vendors this year, Richardson said. In total, 56 arts and crafts vendors and 30 food vendors showed up to the event.
“They amazingly said to me last year that this is the risk you take of doing an outdoor show in Montana, and they all came back this year,” she said. “They know good days like this are more common than bad days like that.”