1. Give a Heads-Up
When Montanans pass a deer alongside the road, we flash our brights at on-coming vehicles, just to give a heads-up of potential action ahead. Give your guests the same courtesy by sending invites four weeks out. Tweet a “save the date.” Send postcards. Make a personal call. Whatever your style, advance invitations create buzz. Tip: mention “family friendly” in your invite to set an informal mood.
2. Use What You Have
Along Montana’s backroads, rings of barbed wire hang from posts, just in case a fence needs mending. There’s something about frugality that not only sets friends at ease but makes party planning easier, too. When guests spot your buffet table up-cycled from sawhorses and a door, or garden veggies doubling as décor, they’ll admire your ingenuity. Tip: dress up pumpkins atop plastic buckets to make a festive couple for greeting guests.
3. Be Neighborly
As Montana temps drop, community spirit rises. Neighbors help neighbors raise a barn or pick tomatoes before the first frost. The highlight of any work day is the potluck dinner. Sharing meals knits folks together and showcases local bounty. One favorite: hot apple cider pressed from Bitterroot Macintosh apples. Tip: throw Cottonwood or Alder chips on BBQ coals to infuse a smoky flavor. (See apple cider recipe next page).
4. Make It All Fun and Games
Montanans like to transform their work into play. Sun-singed cattlemen toss worn out horseshoes. Frosty ski instructors topple empties off ski poles. Fall parties are a hit when guests come away with ideas for homespun fun. Prep games for a variety of ages. Tip: for little ones, teeter-totter a hay bale on a fence post, throw a blanket on top, tie a broom to one end and a mop to the other, and you’ve got “hay bale bronco.”
5. Soak Up the Big Sky
The stars of Big Sky country sparkle in the new blue jean blue of our crisp, autumn nights. Celebrate your own sky with a bonfire. Whittle roasting sticks out of tree branches and watch guests get downright giddy toasting marshmallows. Tune up your guitar or just clear your throat. Bonfires bring out the reveler in all of us. Tip: a fire’s comfy crackle comes from trapped water escaping the wood. Firewood is best split at least six months earlier and given time to “cure.”
Hot Apple Cider
If you can’t find pressed apple cider, try this adaptation for a warm, spicy treat.
- 3 cans frozen apple juice, mixed with half the recommended water
- 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp. all spice
- 2 apples, sliced with skins on
Combine all and keep heated over a fire or in a crock pot. Float apple slices on top.