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Storms fail to dampen Daly Days

Competitors in the Daly Days wiener dog race release their hounds for the run down the course. The race drew a large crowd cheering on their favorite canines.

HAMILTON - Bitterrooters flocked to weekend events throughout the south valley on Friday and Saturday, from the Sportsman’s Expo at the fairgrounds, to Art in the Park, to wiener dog races down Hamilton’s Main Street.

July weather, in all its variety, made for some headaches for Daly Days planners and participants, but a gusty thunderstorm is as much a part of the tradition as is the wilting heat that drove people to Saturday evening’s Microbrew Fest.

Friday’s thundershowers shortened the Daly Days street dance with Cold Hard Cash, but the same storm system hardly fazed attendees at the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival south of town.

Part of that may be the difference between strumming acoustic instruments on a wooden stage, versus holding an electric guitar while standing on a metal truck bed. The recent lightning incident in Darby, which sent several people to the hospital, had everyone looking over their shoulder Friday evening, including auctioneer Cliff Trexler at the “Buy Local” auction. He repeatedly urged bidders to get on with it, so he could get off his metal platform.

The clouds blew away for Saturday morning, though, and the Daly Days activities resumed their sunny midsummer mien.

The Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast was packed, setting the stage for a busy day downtown. Merchants and street vendors vied for the attention of passers-by, who were in turn distracted by the Bitterrodders display of classic hot rods, hog-callers, skateboard whizzes, and treasure hunters.

The wiener dog races proved particularly popular, with two dozen contestants which, lined up end to end, would have stretched halfway to Darby. As it was, though they all started out pointing the same direction, for some of them it was more about the journey than the destination.

Another popular destination was the Daly Mansion, where historical re-enactors graciously portrayed their historical antecedents. Dressed as the Countess Margit Bessenyey, Mrs. A.J. Gibson, Mr. Daly himself, and other historical figures from the mansion’s past, they showed off family photos and other items for visitors, giving a new level of context to a tour.

The kids’ pony cart rides on the grounds were just the icing on the cake for the “cute” factor.

“I’ll tell you what, we’re never leaving this town,” said downtown stroller Helen Gurtner, who was shopping for a new hat, but taking in all the day had to offer.

Things were somewhat more sedate at the Stroller Stampede, sponsored by the Bitterroot Breastfeeding Coalition, but you wouldn’t want to underestimate the Olympic-level competitive focus of the 8-year-old crowd at the start of the family fun run.

The Microbrew Fest benefitted from a sunny afternoon that practically drove people in for a cool sip in the shade; and as long as you’re there, why not stay for the music?

The rest of the day was also a perfect invitation to sit in the shade to listen to bluegrass, which will continue Sunday at the Hardtimes Festival with a 10-noon gospel open stage, and music until it wraps up at 3 p.m.

Organizers will be comparing notes to see if they ever want to host so many events on one weekend, but for visitors and residents alike, it made for a perfect storm of locally-brewed diversion.

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