In the 1950s, Canada declared Thanksgiving a holiday to celebrate a bountiful harvest. But it brings Flathead business owners their own reason to celebrate -- bountiful tourists.
“It’s all good for my business,” explained Dan Cutforth, who owns the Downtowner Inn in Whitefish.
Cutforth is a Canadian too. He moved to the Flathead roughly ten years ago and began running the motel. Before that, he spent Thanksgiving in the Flathead every now and then.
“They like the weather, they like the people,” said Cutforth. “The exchange rate is good right now. It’s just a nice place to come visit.”
When NBC Montana stopped by his hotel on Monday, every car in the lot had Canadian plates. NBC Montana talked to folks in one of those cars.
“It’s refreshing to come here, because a night out is about half the price,” said Calgary resident Adrian Di Marino.
“It’s a lot cheaper for us, for shopping,” said Calgary resident Mishy Davidson.
Back in June, the Canadian government made some changes that some say make the trip southward that much more enticing. Now people staying 24 hours can bring back $200 worth of goods without paying a duty. That’s an added tax for carrying certain things across the border. If they stay two days, they can bring $800 worth of goods. Both are double the original amount.
“I hear it all the time: ‘If it wasn’t for you guys, the economy would really be hurting here,’” said Ralph Gust, a Canadian who also owns a cabin in the Flathead.
One store manager NBC Montana spoke with said she expects customers to drop off by about seventy percent in a couple weeks before ski season hits. In the meantime, she’s thankful for the cold hard cash Canadian Thanksgiving has brought to her shop.