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Prairie Populist writer falls in love with Havre: One visit, three articles

“I think that Havre is the Montana town we all picture in our minds.”

Prairie Populist contributor Amanda Garant has written three articles about north-central Montana in less than a month’s time, including the latest April 20 piece, “From the mountains to Beneath the Streets — highlights on the Hi-Line.”

It’s safe to say she’s an expert and her comment about Havre epitomizing Montana can be taken to the bank.

Garant, a Gallatin Valley resident and transplant from the east coast who’s fallen in love with the Treasure State, explained why Havre is a microcosmic reflection of Montana:

“It’s got the outdoors at your fingertips – fishing and floating, hunting and camping, hiking or skiing. It’s surrounded by open, working landscapes, where for generations farmers and ranchers have stewarded the land and fed us all. It’s got the quintessential Main Street with passionate business owners providing for their community and keeping their town vibrant. It’s got glimpses of our shared history, while still having plenty going on here and now.”

Garant visited Havre March 21. It may or may have not been her first time in the Jewel of the Hi-Line, she said, unable to remember if the trip to Malta several years ago included driving through Havre.

The original plan was to stay one night and have enough time to visit Bear Paw Meats and talk to those involved in the “family-run operation that’s doing some creative things with value-added ag.” However, before even sliding the door card to her hotel room, she extended her trip.

“When I was checking into the hotel, Kim (Otto, Super 8 general manager) let me know that the Bull Dazzle Rodeo was at the fairgrounds that weekend, and I booked another night on the spot.”

She didn’t leave until four days later, March 25.

Prairie Populist is a digital news site that launched last summer. The goal, Garant and editor Sanjay Talwani have said, is to highlight positive work being done across the state, with an emphasis on economic development in the more rural parts of Big Sky Country.

Agriculture is what brought Garant to the Hi-Line.

“Havre and other towns on the Hi-Line are leading the way in ag and ag processing, so I wanted to highlight one example that would tell the larger story of what’s happening on the Hi-Line,” she said, speaking of Bear Paw Meats. That article published April 6.

Aside from getting the lowdown on Bear Paw Meats, Garant came to Havre without a detailed itinerary, convinced the best course starts by talking to people.

“Everyone’s enthusiasm and passion for their town was contagious. I caught the bug and stayed longer.”

While at Bear Paw Meats, she sampled just some of the “delicious” home grown treats the meat processing facility makes. But that was just the beginning. It turned out Havre had more to offer than meat and wheat.

“I couldn’t have predicted just how much was going on in Havre and how many new businesses were popping up.”

On her way to of one of Havre’s busiest drinking fountains, Triple Dog Brewing Co, Garant bumped into the Streatery food truck, which had opened just a few days prior on St. Patrick’s Day, and is often parked in front of the brewery. She met the mobile restaurant’s driving operator, Sarah Manuel. That occurrence would turn into its own article.

Garant met with Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jody Olson, who got her up to speed on some of the “amazing things going on.” Garant toured Havre Beneath the Streets — “the place is absolutely incredible” — attended a ribbon cutting for a new yoga studio, hit the slopes at Bear Paw Ski Bowl and sampled Montana micro brews at the Hi-Line Brewfest in the Ice Dome.

Garant’s articles reflect her authentic excitement with the novelty of a picturesque Montana town.

“I just loved how I kept running into the same folks again and again, and how many new adventures kept popping up,” she said. Her fervor for Havre is just as apparent on the phone.

Yes, it’s safe to assume she fell in love with Havre, Garant said, albeit the sentiment didn’t come as a surprise — “I had a suspicion I would.”

The motto “Havre, it’s the people” is one she believes definitely applies. But, she added, it is applicable to all of Montana, as there are common values — love of the outdoors, public land access, and good education among them — that are Montana-esque.

The Hi-Line adventure is not over for Prairie Populist. Garant said there are probably more Hi-Line articles down the road.

“There is so much to talk about with Havre.”

Readers can expect another article from Garant sometime in the next week or two.

“There’s a lot more positive stories to highlight.”






PAUL DRAGU enjoys French pressed coffee, chilly night temperatures and riding his bicycle until it hurts. In 2015 he packed everything he could fit into, and onto, a single cab Ford Ranger and left Atlanta for good. Fueled by a sense of adventure and the determination to drive until there is no danger of traffic jams for at least 300 miles, he came to a stop in Havre, Montana, and has been here ever since.

Write to Paul at [email protected]

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