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Sweet Pea Parade participants keep festival spirit alive

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Jul 25 2013 06:40:42 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 25 2013 09:50:49 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

It's 1906, after a few years of talk, Bozeman's Commercial Club decided on a way to draw folks into the Gallatin Valley. Modeling the festival on other flower festivals throughout the country, they decided on the Sweet Pea.

"It really did revolve around the Sweet Pea, but it was a promotional effort for Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley to have people come see what goes on here," explains Gallatin Historical Society Executive Director John Russell.

It's to showcase agriculture, culture and the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Organizers kicked off the festival with a parade, welcoming folks to town.

"That was just a traditional aspect of any kind of festival like that," explains Russell.

The parade would have started on the east side of town and gone west. A thousand visitors braved dust kicked up from unpaved roads to see the many horse-drawn floats.

"Just about everything in the parade was a float and they used real sweet peas," says Russell.

You'll find far fewer sweet pea flowers in today's parade floats, but participants tell us the spirit of the festival is still the same.

"If you're going to live somewhere, you want to have things to do there, you want to have public participation, pleasant things to do. Sweet Pea has evolved itself into that. I mean, it started as that and has gotten better as time has gone by," says parade participant Doug Ritter.

Ritter shows me how the Candy Cannon float works. He's been participating in the parade for at least a decade with the Noon Optimist Club.

"The point of the Candy Cannon is that you can deliver candy to kids along the parade route without throwing it and you can't throw it because there's a city ordinance against throwing," explains Ritter.

As he makes his way along the parade route, Ritter says there are more and more children waiting for the Candy Cannon. He says seeing their excitement is the best part for him.

"They expect us and so, as we go along, here we come and they know what that means and so, they're excited, it's fun, everybody's having a good time," says Ritter.

Though the look of the parade may have changed, the Sweet Pea Festival is still an annual tradition that draws hundreds to appreciate everything the Gallatin Valley has to offer.

"It's one of the premiere Bozeman happenings of the summer season," exclaims Ritter.