ARLEE - Gridlock occurred on U.S. 93 in the tiny town of Arlee last Fourth of July. Officials hope they can avoid it this Sunday.

A combination of factors - the 100th anniversary tribal celebration powwow, the annual community Fourth of July Parade that detoured traffic on a back street through the town and additional traffic to a nearby rodeo - led to delays of an hour or more for highway travelers, said George Swartz, highway maintenance chief for the state Department of Transportation's regional office in Missoula.

Swartz said he met with tribal and parade officials last week to coordinate this year's traffic-control efforts, and to make sure the massive congestion isn't repeated.

Last year, during the parade itself, traffic moved slowly but surely through town along a detour.

The gridlock came later in the afternoon due to a shortage of parking at the powwow grounds, huge attendance and lack of traffic supervision on Highway 93.

This year, parking has been expanded at the powwow grounds for the annual Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Fourth of July Celebration; tribal police will be on hand to direct traffic all afternoon; and a detour - starting 15 minutes before the parade and ending 30 minutes after the parade - will keep traffic flowing during the parade itself, Swartz said.

He said highway patrol officers also will be asked to be on hand, emergencies permitting.

A little-used alternate route into the powwow grounds will be posted with directional signs, Swartz said, so visitors can access the powwow without going on Powwow Road, which feeds directly onto the main highway.

The parade begins at noon and will proceed along Morigeau Street to Highway 93. Contestants will then turn south on the highway and continue to Powwow Road, where the parade will end.

Trophies will be given in the following categories: commercial clubs and organizations, best Western outfit, best Indian outfit, novelty-humorous, and patriotic.

After the judges' deliberations, prizes will be presented to winners in front of the Historical Society Museum.

People who park along the highway to watch the parade are asked to exercise patience in getting back on the highway when the parade is over, so as not to add to the normal congestion, the parade committee said in a press release.

The powwow begins Wednesday and continues through Sunday. The rodeo is Sunday.

Tuesday - 6/29/99

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