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By Ed Moreth 

Plains Day plans progress


Plans for this year’s Plains Day gala are shaping up and organizers are bringing in a blast from the past to help with the celebration. 

The festival will take place on Saturday, June 4, and has activities taking place along the downtown greenway, Fred Young Park and E.L. Johnson Memorial Park, commonly known as the “pool park.” 

The Free Americans, the group that stepped up to organize the festival last year, volunteered to do it again and they’ve selected Alvin Amundson as this year’s parade grand marshal. Amundson and the late Clark Coffee started the annual festival in 1962, calling it Donkey Derby Days, which was eventually changed to Plains Day. “We started it as a thank-you to our local customers and we had a lot of fun,” said Amundson, who added that he’s glad that an organization is continuing the Plains Day tradition. The 92-year-old Amundson has lived in Missoula for the last 10 years, but he has deep roots in Plains. He owned and operated Gambles Hardware for 40 years, selling it in 1993. He served as the grand marshal 10 years ago at the festival’s 50th anniversary. Amundson has been a member of the Plains Lions Club for 69 years and a member of Mason Ponemah Lodge 63 in Plains for 66 years.

“It’s going to be a great day for the people coming. We have planned lots of activities for adults and children,” said Connie Foust, the primary coordinator of Plains Day and a member of the Free Americans. This year’s theme will be “Let Freedom Ring” and the celebration will start once again with the Mason’s Pancake Breakfast at the VFW from 7-11 a.m. 

Organizers don’t have a complete schedule yet, but will be putting out posters and flyers over the next two weeks with more firm times for events. The parade will kick off at 11 a.m. and Foust said they’re already getting a lot of entries. There will be prizes for parade contestants and participants in the car show. The car show will be right after the parade and will be set up at the west end of the greenway. There will also be prizes for those in the pet parade, which will be part of the general parade.

Vendors will be setting up along the greenway along Railroad Street at 10 a.m. Foust said Rocky Mountain Bank will again host the Ice Cream Social and Turtle Races. The VFW will have burgers, there will be cross cut competition at the VFW, and there will be bouncy houses at Fred Young Park.

Plains Day will continue into the evening with the traditional dinner and dance at the E.L. Johnson Memorial Park, compliments of the Ryan Family once again. “We just want people to come out and enjoy the event and remember that life’s worth living,” said Newman Ryan, the main organizer of that part of the event. Newman will be helped by his parents, Roxann and Dan, along with his brothers, Jake and Jubal, and sister, Taralee. The Ryans have been putting on a potluck feast, dance and a limbo contest for several years and nearly always draw a big crowd.

The event is free, said Newman, who works mostly out of state, but has returned to Montana nearly every year to help with Plains Day. This year’s theme for the Ryan’s event will be “Fun in the Park” and will begin with the community dinner at 5 p.m. The dance will commence at 6 p.m. It’ll be a dance lesson intermixed with a variety of dance moves, such as Swing, Polka, Scottish Polka, Waltz, Virginia Real, and others, according to Newman, a professional dance instructor who is heading to a gig in New York City immediately after Plains Day. Newman said he’s going to have a professional caller from Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, at the Plains Day dance.

Newman said they plan to start the limbo contest around 7:30 p.m. He said they’ll have a $100 prize and a gift basket for the adult first place winner and a gift basket for the winner of the children’s class. At “dark-thirty,” shortly before 10 p.m. they will start the “movie in the park” with a showing of a 1945 film called “Anchors Aweigh” with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson. “Bring your pillows, blankets and chairs and get comfy on the grass and enjoy the movie,” said Newman. 


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