Slices of pie await dozens of eager participants in the Nevada City Museum’s Summer Celebration pie eating contest - no hands allowed.Two young volunteers at the Nevada City Museum display the remnants of a successful pie eating contest on Saturday, June 30.

Living History welcomes summer in Nevada City

Summer Celebration weekend features sunshine, music, lots of pie

NEVADA CITY—The living history museum of the Montana Heritage Commission opened for the season during Memorial Day weekend, but the summer season really got into full swing with the museum’s annual Summer Celebration weekend June 28-30.

Since the Fourth of July fell in the middle of a week this year, the museum decided to shift some of the holiday festivities to the adjoining weekends in order to allow more visitors to participate.

The living history program first began in 2003 with only one large event per summer. But as it grew, gained popularity and attracted dedicated volunteers, the educational and interactive programs expanded to monthly, and eventually into the full-summer program that’s open seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Leona Stredwick is a clerk for Madison County for her day job, but has been involved with the living history program for a decade. She is now one of the museum’s senior interpreters and spends her weekends in full, period-accurate dress, keeping Montana’s old-west history alive for visitors to the Madison Valley.

“People are pretty dedicated, not only to the program, but to Virginia City and Nevada City themselves,” says Stredwick. “By doing this, you’re preserving the history for kids of the romantic notion of the American West.”

The interpreters and actors of the living history program are all volunteers, and many have been coming to Nevada City for years every summer to participate. The museum has volunteers from three of Montana’s four corners, as well as aides that come from Idaho and Utah just to donate their time and effort. This weekend’s Nevada City schoolmistress, Sadie Cathey, just graduated from Bozeman High School but has been coming to Nevada City as an interpreter since she was eight years old. She’ll attend Montana State University in the fall to study history, but has every intention of continuing to return to Nevada City during the summer.

“When I was younger, I remember taking etiquette classes here,” says Cathey, who has risen through the ranks as a volunteer, beginning as a child actor. “And this morning I just taught my first group of kids.” They practiced the alphabet before getting dismissed to join some of the other volunteers for Mrs. V’s “light lunch” in the museum’s dining house.

Like everything in Nevada City, lunch is prepared just as it would have been in 1865. That means an 1865 stove, serving dishes and authentic, researched and practiced beverage recipes, like this week’s strawberry acid tonic, a kid-friendly beverage unlike any soda you’ve ever tried.

Don’t underestimate Mrs. V: her light lunch this week consisted of roast ham, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy, sliced peaches, salad, pickles and homemade gingerbread for dessert (with whipped cream whipped the old-fashioned way—in jars with the help of some energetic kiddos). But watch out: Mrs. V’s only caters to miners, so make sure you have some gold dust on hand to pay for her delicious cooking.

Summer Celebration weekend included extra interpretive programs and some signature Fourth of July-style activities: a pie-eating contest for volunteers and visitors alike, plus three-legged races, egg tosses and keepsake-making opportunities à la 1865—courtesy of Nevada City’s weavers, seamstresses and shoemakers.

The living history museum’s summer celebration continues this weekend, July 7-8, with their children’s weekend. 

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; weekend admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children and seniors.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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