Community pulled together for Festival of Lights
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BELGRADE NEWS - CLICK HERE TO SEE ORIGINAL
By: Tiffany Maierle, Belgrade Community Coalition
December 21, 2017
It was Aristotle who said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. That describes perfectly the 2017 Belgrade Festival of Lights. It was not one individual or one group who made the event successful, it was everyone contributing “their part” - their skill, their resource, their donation, their time, their presence. And when all those parts came together to make a whole, it created a very special event that was gifted to Belgrade. Here are ten “parts” of the festival and the Belgrade Community Coalition’s (BCC) appreciation to all of you who made it happen!
The first part was from the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce when they asked if the BCC would like to take on the event and to Rick Phillips and Debbie Finkbeiner who stepped up with their enthusiasm, ideas, and willingness to help get the ball rolling.
The parts continued to come together as numerous volunteers met each month. A big thanks goes out to all of them with a special thank you to Adryann Baldwin, Annie Aschim, Bev Tompers, Brad Berg, Brynn Dellwo, Chiara Schober, Deb Finkbeiner, and Stacy Konkol who stepped up to be committee leaders. Other volunteers answered our cries and stepped in to help for event day. These include numerous individuals, the BHS Cross Country team, Girl Scouts, Belgrade Venture Crew, multiple high school groups including Key Club and Art Club, photographer Kelley Wlodkowski, face painter Pricilla Perez, VFW Post 12112, Belgrade Church of Christ, and many more. Over 100 volunteers came together to make this event happen and they are the second part of the whole.
After months of fundraising with the main objective of having LIGHTS, our Santa Claus appeared in the form of a Belgrade alum. Josh Knoedler, owner of Birddog Lighting, donated all the new lights you see downtown. Ron Finkbeiner and Mike Meis were Santa’s helpers and deserve an enormous thank you for hanging the lights along with our lighting committee. Angels are also among us as we honor the memories of loved ones, string by string, wrapping the tree trunks that line the Main Street parking lot.
From George Hoffman with the Belgrade News, to Paul Browning from 99.1, and Kenneth Webb from KBZK – the media was part four as they provided free and discounted publicity for the event.
The fifth part of the gift is a big one - the sponsors and donors. Thousands of dollars and multiple prizes were donated from local businesses and individuals. We thank all of them for their support and know we would not have had such a grand event without their help. Special thanks goes out to our top monetary sponsors – TMC, Inc. and Bozeman Health, Belgrade Clinic.
This part came from Ted Barkley, Steve Klotz, EJ Clark, and all the people at the City of Belgrade, Belgrade Police Department, and Central Valley Fire. They were extremely helpful and patient with this freshman crew. They also went out of their way to get us hooked up with power downtown. We are also grateful to the Chamber for their guidance and use of power and their building.
The seventh part came unexpectedly but we were immensely grateful. Jo Jones from Milestone Gallery rallied her shop neighbors and they took charge to create their own piece of the Festival. Jo started something great and we hope other businesses will follow in her footsteps during future Festivals.
In case you didn’t know, we have some amazing retail businesses and restaurants! Montana Camp, Sacks, Sister’s Gluten Free Bakery, Rustic Edge Salon, Wendy Marquis Art, Re:Alignment, and Healthy Out West all opened their doors for people to check out their goods and services as well as enjoy a place to come in from the cold. The Mint, Spotted Horse Café, Rhino Casino, and Center Ice all had warm drinks and/or hot food on hand.
Without the participation of the Belgrade Community Library, who is a Festival of Lights staple, the night wouldn’t have been the same. Nor would it have been without our local churches and nonprofits who spread holiday cheer up and down the streets.
The final part, which when combined with all the other parts, created the whole. The whole which was greater than all the parts on their own. This part was you! Your smiling faces, your joy, your families, your kindness, your holiday spirit, and your desire to make Belgrade stronger. You were the final part we needed to create this gift. For this gift wasn’t just an event. It was a building block to a renewed town, an enforcement to community pride, an excuse to get to know your town and your neighbors, and so much more.
Thank you to everyone for bringing your parts to make the greater whole. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Tiffany Maierle and the entire Belgrade Community Coalition team
Festival of Lights takes Shape
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BELGRADE NEWS - CLICK HERE TO SEE ORIGINAL
Written by: Freddy Monares, staff writer
October 5, 2017
The Belgrade Community Coalition released plans for its first take over of the 2017 Festival of Lights.
At the Belgrade City Council meeting, Ali Vasarella and Brenda Baker, representatives of BCC, requested council members to approve road closures to allow for fireworks, a 5K race and other activities during the hours of the event. The coalition is a non-profit with a mission to cultivate a stronger sense of community in the city.
Last year’s event saw little participation from businesses in the area, resulting in fewer events around town than usual, people have said. At the beginning of last year, Belgrade Chamber of Commerce Director Debra Youngberg said she hoped another organization would be interested in trying to ignite some enthusiasm for the event.
Ted Barkley, Belgrade city manager, said the city was excited to see what the non-profit does for the city’s festival.
“They’re bringing new energy to civic life in Belgrade,” Barkley said.
At the council meeting, he said he needed to schedule a sit down with the organizers to mull over some of the details that were mostly traffic related. The group also needed to provide the city with a certificate of insurance before plans can be approved.
“There are some questions we have that need to be answered about how traffic control will be handled,” he said.
Organizers requested the closure of Main Street, from Weaver Street to Kennedy Street. The closure would allow businesses to set up tables and serve warm refreshments and live music at the center of the event. The festival is also slated to include a fireworks show and a library book sale at the end of the night.
“There’s nothing here that could be a show stopper at all,” Barkley said.
A meeting between the BCC and the city is likely to take place early next week to iron out the details and answer any questions the city may have, Barkley said.
Unseasonable Weather Doesn't Dampen Celebration at Belgrade Fall Festival
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOZEMAN DAILY CHRONICLE - CLICK HERE TO SEE ORIGINAL
Written By: Lewis Kendall, Chronicle Staff Writer
September 17, 2017
The weather may have felt more like winter, but Belgrade’s Fall Festival was in full swing on Saturday.
The combination of light snow and cold rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the crowds that lined downtown Belgrade for the annual celebration that’s grown into a community cornerstone over the years.
As usual, there were the dozen or so booths scattered in Lewis and Clark Park, selling everything from dresses to framed photographs.
There were community organizations, from the Knights of Columbus to Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter and Youth Dynamics.
And there was the food. Lots and lots of food, the wafting smells watering mouths up and down Main Street. Fry bread, hot dogs, popcorn, snow cones and a handful of barbecue stands, including, of course, the popular, open fire, smoking basketball-sized chunks of meat. All that after the Belgrade Senior Center hosted a pancake breakfast earlier that morning.
One group that had certainly worked up an appetite were the runners, who took part in a 5K through town, put on by the Belgrade Community Coalition.
But the day’s main course was the parade, which led a wide variety of floats, vehicles and groups through downtown to the cheers of onlookers.
“Kindergarten’s where it’s at,” chanted a large cohort of 5-year-olds, dressed in shirts embossed with Belgrade High School’s signature green panther that read “Class of 2030.”
Among them was Amanda Sumida’s daughter, Apryle Sumida.
“She was super excited about it,” Amanda Sumida said. “And I’m just excited to see her.”
Suzanna Porter, whose son, Cody, was also in the parade, admitted that her children were probably more excited about the day than she was.
“They’re like ‘Let’s do it,’” she said.
In addition to the kindergartners, the parade featured Belgrade High’s marching band, as well as vintage cars and the usual procession of emergency vehicles.
For Patricia Karagiosis, celebrating her own 40th high school reunion this year, the festival represents all that is good about Belgrade. Karagiosis, who recently took over the long standing Ladi Bugg salon and also drives buses for the high school, has been to more Fall Festivals than she can count.
And though the yearly events, along with the city itself, have grown over time, there’s still something special about the place she calls home, Karagiosis said.
“Belgrade people are pretty hearty and really support their community,” she said. “I just think Belgrade is a great place.”
We were honored to be recognized for the month of July as for First Security Bank’s Community First Award. Missy O’Malley catches up with Vice President Hilary Brannan to find out the latest on the group’s accomplishments in the video below!
Amazing support for Trails in Belgrade this year
Thank you Belgrade and supporters around the valley! Your incredible generosity during #GiveBigGV helped us surpass our goal! We received $6,230 in gifts from 83 donors for the #BelgradeTrails project. The excitement for Belgrade and all its nonprofits really touched our hearts. Thanks for coming to the events and for donating to the wonderful organizations all around the valley. In total, 3,675 donors raised $678,217.01 for 168 nonprofits during the event! Wow!
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BELGRADE NEWS - CLICK HERE TO SEE ORIGINAL
Written by: Sam Weber, staff writer
April 20, 2017
Eight miles of interstate separate Belgrade and Bozeman.
The close proximity, though convenient in some cases, is one of the biggest obstacles downtown Belgrade faces. Too often, said Tiffany Maierle, residents hop on the highway and do all of their business in Bozeman, returning to Belgrade just long enough for a good night’s sleep.
“Think of Belgrade first,” said Maierle, president of the Belgrade Community Coalition. “We need to change the mindset of putting support in our town first before heading into Bozeman.”
But how does one alter the perception of an entire city? What will entice residents to take pride in their address?
That’s precisely what a group of Belgrade citizens intend to find out. Earlier this year, several groups suddenly lit up with enthusiasm for making a change in Belgrade—Facebook groups, that is. Belgrade Moms, Ask Belgrade, the BLOCK Downtown Belgrade, Belgrade Town Hall Forum and more were covered with flurries of comments expressing a desire for change and growth.
Christine Stoppa started the Belgrade Moms page a few years ago after a Bozeman group cancelled an art class in Belgrade to which she’d hoped to take her daughters. The group said there was no way to communicate with Belgrade families.
Now, Belgrade Moms has more than 1,300 followers. Stoppa said the missing Festival of Lights last Christmas prompted a viral discussion on the page.
“There was just this explosion of people who all the sudden wanted to do something,” Stoppa said. “A lot of people were sick of driving to Bozeman for everything. I think it’s awesome. You have to have that first step.”
Meg Ryan, owner of Re:Alignment in downtown Belgrade, noticed the momentum, too. She decided to harness the energy and organized a “meeting of the minds” with any interested parties from the Belgrade Facebook groups.
Ryan moved her business from Bozeman to Belgrade about three-and-a-half years ago because she was sick of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Though many of her clients followed her, some refused to drive the six miles to her new space.
“I was sick of people saying there’s nothing going on here,” she said. “It seems like our poor little town has just fizzled.”
Though downtown looks like a “ghost town,” Ryan added, the camaraderie between businesses is strong.
“It’s like a family,” she said of the locals who gather at The Spotted Horse Café. “Spending time there just fills your soul.”
Around 20 people of all ages came to the “meeting of the minds,” Ryan said. They discussed ways to help strengthen Belgrade businesses, how to “rebrand” the city and where they should focus their efforts to boost the community.
“People were just stoked,” she said. “They want to see change and growth. There’s a lot of momentum in the community right now and if anyone else wants to get something done, I encourage them to do it now.”
In response to the abrupt fervor, teams of volunteers are focusing their efforts on two substantial projects this year: the Festival of Lights and a new farmers market, the Belgrade Community Market.
Underwhelming participation leading up to the annual Festival of Lights last year resulted in a poor showing for the event, typically headed up by the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce.
Belgrade Chamber of Commerce Director Debe Youngberg said she hoped for a new group of strong volunteers would be able to breath some life into the festival. Maierle and the rest of the Belgrade Community Coalition board members answered the call.
Youngberg said the energy in Belgrade, not only surrounding the Festival of Lights, is “great.” It’s been a long time since community service groups have been active in the city, she added.
“As kids got busier and more women were working outside the home, it seemed like people didn’t have time to devote to community service groups anymore,” she said. “There’s a group of moms now that want more things for their kids. They’ve realized if something’s going to happen, volunteers need to do it.”
That’s exactly what’s happened. Belgrade mom and volunteer Renae Mattimoe said it’s taken a motivated group of people to finally take on the challenge of enhancing the community.
“People have always said, ‘Oh, they should do this, they should fix that,’” Mattimoe said. “Who is ‘they’? ‘They’ are your neighbors, ‘they’ is everyone in the Belgrade community. We are ‘they.’”
The “they” leading the charge for the Festival of Lights resurrection is headed up by Maierle. She said committees have set a date for Saturday, Dec. 9, and planned out an all-day one-stop shop and kids activities at the Belgrade Special Events Center, a “Santa march” downtown, some sort of tree lighting and holiday activities involving businesses.
“We were thrilled to do it because it fits right in with our mission, cultivating a stronger sense of community for Belgrade,” Maierle said.
The Belgrade Community Market is a new event coming to the city this summer, representing another strong effort to give Belgrade a boost. Christine Stoppa rallied a committee for the farmers market and partnered with the BCC to get it going.
Furthermore, the BCC is looking into developing trail systems through the city to enhance connectivity in more ways than one. They’ve been getting advice from the Gallatin Valley Land Trust about establishing trails.
“We want the citizens of the town to feel not only physically, but personally connected to our community and proud to call Belgrade home,” Maierle said.
To get people to take pride in Belgrade, Mattimoe said the community must first attempt to quash negative perceptions swirling around it. “I don’t know how we get rid of this ‘Belowgrade’ thing,” she said. “We’re a joke to the rest of Gallatin County and I don’t know why that is. I feel like Belgrade has some of the hardest working people and I don’t know what we have this reputation of being less.”
Stoppa suggested Belgrade started to flounder when it got caught up in “the Bozeman boom.”
“The community was kind of getting fractured,” she said. “We have to find a way to tie the new and the old together. The people who have been here 30, 40, 50 years have a very different perception of Belgrade than the people who just moved here last month.”
Stoppa and Ryan both said the diverse groups living in Belgrade need to meet in the middle somehow. Young families who got priced out of Bozeman, fourth generation ranchers and workers who are new to the valley are all part of the fabric of Belgrade. Getting them all to identify cohesively as Belgrade citizens necessitates a “ new image,” Ryan said.
“Whether or not we wanted to be in Belgrade in the first place, we have an amazing community of people here,” she added. “No one’s looking for a change to take away the ag or farming heritage in Belgrade. That’s vital. We just want more.”
Maierle said it’s crucial to keep the passion and communication going.
“There are just a bunch of organizations coming together and that’s really what I would like to see going forward,” she said. “I think that we all have the same goal and that’s to make a stronger Belgrade and to make a great community.”
Communicating with every corner of the city is a big challenge, Maierle added. Facebook has been a great way to get started, but that doesn’t appeal to everyone. Monthly newsletters, regular open forums and good old-fashioned word of mouth could all come into play.
Mattimoe said supporting local businesses is key, too. Recognizing all the services available in Belgrade would encourage more people to shop local and spend their dollars right in town.
“When you need a service, recommend a place in Belgrade,” she said.
Though it’s not entirely clear how this community momentum will move forward, Maierle said she’s confident it will.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what the next couple of years hold. There’s power in numbers. The more people we can involved, the more we can do.”
Start-Up Grant Awarded
In March, 2017, the Belgrade Community Coalition awarded a $500 start-up grant to the Belgrade Community Market. Additionally, the BCC serve as the Market's umbrella organization and facilitate some of the market's business needs for the first year.
The goal of the Belgrade Community Market is to provide a venue for Homemade, Handmade, and Homegrown Vendors to sell their local products, as well as provide the community with a place to socialize and have fun on Thursday Nights.
The BCC is excited and honored to be part of the Market and the awesome group of local people who are organizing and operating the activities.
THANK YOU to everyone who submitted a survey or attended the community meeting and to those who've volunteered to help!
February 15 from 5:30-6:30
March 22 (rescheduled per Spring Break) from 5:30-6:30
April 19 from 5:30-6:30
May 17 from 5:30-6:30
June 21 from 5:30-6:30
July 19 from 5:30-6:30
August 16 from 5:30-6:30
September 20 from 5:30-6:30
October 18 from 5:30-6:30
November 15 from 5:30-6:30
Board Members Needed
The Belgrade Community Coalition is currently looking to add two board members to our team. If you have experience in one or more of the following areas, please consider applying for a position on the board:
- Cultivating connections to the Belgrade community
- Fundraising and grant writing
- Project/program management
- Establishing partnerships and collaborations
Download the Board Member application here.
View the Board Member job description here.
Want to talk to someone first, drop us a note through our contact page.
We are currently seeking volunteers to help with two specific projects:
- 2017 Belgrade Festival of Lights (planning starts early!)
- Trails and Paths
If you'd like to get on our email list to hear about future needs, fill out this form and we'll keep you posted.
Also, check out the Belgrade Events page and follow us on Facebook!