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Bannack State Park is a real-life ghost town with about 60 historic log and frame structures, and on July 15 and 16, it will come to life during Bannack Days. That’s an annual festival with exhibits, period reenactors and activities designed to recreate the atmosphere of Montana’s first major gold discovery on July 28, 1862.
The gold rush caused Bannack’s population to swell to more than 3,000 by 1863, but by the 1950s, gold operations had ceased, and the town died. Today, Bannack State Park is a 2.7-square-mile complex that hosts tours and activities year-round, but the highlight of the year is Bannack Days, when the whole family can enjoy themselves and learn about history at the same time.
Here are four great aspects to Bannack Days.
1. Live Music from Yesteryear
Various venues throughout the townsite will host live music harkening to the town’s heyday!
2. The 1860s Come to Life
Actors will be all over the grounds in period clothing, including suffragettes lobbying for the right to vote. Beware of dubious characters, though. You just might encounter a reenacted shootout or a stagecoach robbery. Shootout reenactments are at 12:00 & 3:00 daily, Church Services: 9 & 10:30 on Sunday only and the Shriners Breakfast: is at 7:00-10:00 Daily.
3. Period Demonstrations
Among the demonstrations will be a town doctor, miner’s court, telegraph, barber, Volunteer Calvary, Montana Surveyors, Backcountry Horsemen, Bad Water Mining & Gaming, FWP TIP MONT trailer & fur bearing animal display, sluice box demo, Masonic lodge tours, spinning, and mini log cabins
Craft vendors will on hand and will be selling period arts and crafts. These include Quilting, General Store, Leather Journals, Cowgirl Dreamin Wildrags, Buffalo Gal Hat Company, The Corner Mercantile (Native American Crafts), Bridge Over Time (Historic Clothing), Tinsmith & Broom Making, Flint Knapping, Old Time Photographs
5. Hands-On Activities
Visitors can participate in hands-on activities such as panning for “gold,” soap-making, candle dipping and doll making. Sunday, there will be old time church services featuring period music.
6. Amazing Food
Food will be for sale across the Bannack townsite, including Hotdogs & Hamburgers (Sheridan HS Spanish Club), Sausage, Tamales & More (Top of the Hill Meats), Maria’s Mexican Food (Sunday Only)
Ice Cream (Bannack Association), Snow Cones (Elks Club), Lemonade & Sweet Tea (Sweetwater Coffee), Coffee & Italian Sodas (Montana Morning Coffee), a Bake Sale (Grace Methodist Church Saturday/), Village Kettle Corn
7. So Much for So Little
Weekend admission is just $5 per person or $20 per family, with children under 5 FREE. Demonstrations are free, but horseback and stagecoach rides are $10 for children under 12 years old and $15 for adults. Food and drinks can be purchased from vendors during the event. The event goes from 9:00-5:00 on Saturday and 9:00-4:30 on Sunday
Parking space is limited during this busy event. FWP staff will provide parking directions for visitors as they arrive. Shuttle services will be available to and from parking areas farthest from park entrances. There will also be 2 shuttle buses a day from the fairgrounds in Dillon to Bannack Days. The buses will be at 9 am and 11 am with returns at 3 pm and 5 pm. Visitors are encouraged to carpool and leave pets at home.
One of 55 parks in the Montana State Parks system, Bannack State Park is in Beaverhead County, west of Dillon. It’s open year-round and has a variety of camping opportunities, including a reservable Tepee. The “ghost walks” program in October is a spooky annual tradition with many families across the state.
For more information, call 406-287-3541 or visit https://fwp.mt.gov/stateparks/bannack-state-park.