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I’m sorry I didn’t get over to Miles City on Saturday for the third annual Mosquito Festival.

The event was advertised as featuring a mosquito-wing-eating contest as well as a Bloody Mary contest. I don’t even care for Bloody Marys, but if I ate enough mosquito wings I suppose I’d wash them down with any old liquid.

What I really like is the honest nature of the festival. Other burgs might throw festivals in honor of lilacs, sweet peas, strawberries, chokecherries, pioneers, fly-fishing or folk music, but not Miles City.

Miles City, with the stubborn pride it has always worn like a badge, celebrates an aspect of its environment that every other community would do its best to hide.

I could just imagine an out-of-town visitor to Miles City thinking: “Well, this joint is hot, muggy, buggy and full of enormous mosquitoes, and I’ve never seen people drain so many Bloody Marys, but I like their pluck. I think I will relocate my billion-dollar manufacturing plant here.”

On the bandwagon

That’s why I think Billings and other Montana communities should follow Miles City’s lead.

We Magic Citians could sponsor a Sugar Beet Stink Festival. People could gather in South Park, or better yet, in one of those vacant lots right across State Avenue from the sugar beet plant, during the height of the beet-processing season.

We could even bottle some of the strongest fumes from inside the plant and bring them over to the festival for an endurance-inhaling contest, or dare contestants to drink some of the water in which the shredded beets are boiled.

I toured the plant once and bit into a french-fry-like sliver of raw sugar beet. It wasn’t good, but it was probably better than mosquito wings, so we could serve raw beets with various dips and some kind of rotgut liquor derived from sugar beet mash.

During the winter, generally a slack time for tourism, Billings could throw an Ice Rut Festival on just about any residential street in town. There could be contests to see whose car could sustain the most serious front-end damage driving a two- or three-block circuit, or bowling tournaments down the middle of a street, with the ruts serving as gutters.

Laurel could throw a Rotten Egg Festival in front of the CHS Refinery, or perhaps an Unexploded Ordnance Festival every July 5, in the same city park where the Independence Day fireworks display is held.

Through a cloud, darkly

Speaking of stink, Missoula would be a natural for the Winter Inversion Festival, celebrating that annual stretch of weather when every molecule of methane, carbon dioxide and other effusions are trapped in the valley by heavy banks of low-lying clouds.

Children could write their names in the palpable atmosphere, or play Marco Polo without blindfolds. Daredevil parachutists could attempt to land on a target hidden in the mists and guides could lead hikers up to the “M,” there to gaze down on the veritable inland sea of gray muck.

Butte could stage an It’s Not That Cold Festival in January, complementing Glendive’s It’s Not That Hot Festival in the first week of August.

Helena could celebrate its role as the seat (wink, wink) of state government with a Legislative Hi-Jinks Festival every other winter.

There would be dunk tanks, hog shows, pork banquets, spear-chucking contests, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey games, elephant rides, tea parties and hot-air balloon rides.

Legislators themselves could be employed as carnival barkers, ringmasters, sleight-of-hand artists, illusionists, carnies, clowns and contortionists. The festival would have to include the ride that costs a lot of money, spins wildly until the bottom drops out and everyone leaves feeling sick.

Other possibilities, which I’m sure locals could elaborate on, would include the Huntley Ice Jam Festival, Winnett Gumbo Days, the Pompeys Pillar Hail Stormapalooza, Sidney Krazy Boom Days and the Acton Road Kill Carnival.

To all those Miles Citians who survived Mosquito Days, you have our thanks and admiration.



I cover the city of Billings.