On New Year's Eve in Montana, locals and visitors revel in the possibilities of the months to come. From ball drops to fireworks to First Night activities, every locale rings in the new year a little differently. As part of NewYearsQuest -- a MapQuest guide to the best New Year's Eve sights and sounds in the U.S. and in major cities around the world -- here are three recommended events for New Year's Eve 2011 in Montana.
Montana New Year's Eve Events Map
First Night In Missoula
Walks across Missoula's Higgins Street Bridge at night offer beautiful views under ordinary circumstances, as the lights of downtown and the sky reflect off the Clark Fork River. But on December 31, strolls become magical as the town stays up late and parties in a family-friendly way. First Night Missoula offers a multitude of performances, activities and other entertainment -- indoor and out -- so revelers should dress for the Montana winter. According to First Night Missoula, the historic Wilma Theater will feature the final round of the First Night Star competition, a contest for high-school singers based on American Idol. First Night Buttons cost $15 the day of the celebration and $12 in advance. Other events include ice carving, square dancing and dozens of musical events for every taste, from a cappella singing to bagpipes. For a listing of events this year, celebrants can go to the First Night Missoula website's schedule page.
First Night In Kalispell
First Night Flathead sounds like either some sort of fish buffet or a playground insult. But it's actually a New Year's celebration that takes place in Flathead County in the northwest corner of Montana, in downtown Kalispell -- the county seat. The event is a nonalcoholic family-friendly New Year's gala. Last year's celebration featured almost 30 musical bands and performers, as well as everything from face painting to miniature horse (not pony!) rides, from 2 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. First Night President Patrice Manget told the Flathead Beacon, "We just make a huge, raucous First Night noise." The celebration peaks with a countdown to midnight at the Masonic Temple. First Night Flathead admission buttons cost $15 the day of the event and $12 in advance. Midnight in Montana can get downright frigid, so partygoers should dress for winter at this 12-year tradition. Revelers can check out the list of events on the First Night Flathead website's schedule page.
Fireworks At Big Sky Resort
The snowy beauty of the Rocky Mountains is a stark counterpoint to Times Square on New Year's Eve, as fireworks light up the sky at Big Sky Resort. Located 50 miles south of Montana State University at Bozeman, Big Sky offers a spread of family events. The fireworks and parade are free, notes bigskymontananet.com, and there are pay-for-admission dances for kids and teens. A Big Band dinner-dance appeals to romantics. It's a high-altitude ski environment, so fireworks watchers should dress for Montana winter.
New Year's Eve In Montana: VideoThe Tiernan Irish Dancers offer a good look at a typical First Night Missoula event.
Did we miss a Montana New Year's Eve event? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
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by Ken Jennings
Our resident expert -- and renowned Jeopardy! champ -- scours the planet to find some of its oddest New Year's traditions.
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