NewsLocal NewsFlathead County


Downtown Whitefish decked out with historic, handmade decorations

Posted at 3:28 PM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-23 12:39:41-05

WHITEFISH — People passing through downtown Whitefish will notice amazing holiday decorations hanging above each street.

Chris Schustrom says the holiday decorations have been a tradition since the 1950's after being started by a former Whitefish Chamber of Commerce president.

"There was a man named John Austin -- who in the early fifties was the president of the Chamber of Commerce -- and he was at the landfill and there was a truck from the City of Kalispell with a man who was going to throw away 20 frames of the large historic bells," said Schustrom.

"John offered to purchase them from him and the man accepted. And the man knew he had someone who could recover them, and that's how the tradition of the red bells in Whitefish began,” he continued.

Schustrom is a member of Whitefish Shines, a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to bringing holiday decorations to downtown Whitefish.

He told MTN News that decoration upkeep begins in the fall. "We'll re-cover snowflakes just so they're really great and bright. And this year we'll reupholster, or have reupholstered, 52 of the red bells," explained Schustrom.

There are 50 wreaths, 20 snowflakes and 90 red bells that line the streets of downtown Whitefish.

Schustrom just learned how to pattern and sew the iconic red bell which was a skill passed down through generations. The red bells are made of vinyl coated polyester to withstand the harsh winter weather. Schustrom, along with other Whitefish Shines members, will continue upkeep non the red bells throughout the winter.

Anyone interested in volunteering or making a donation is asked to contact Schustrom at (406) 260-1198. Donations may also be sent to P.O. Box 695, Whitefish MT 59937.