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Famous Holiday Event Marks it’s 43rd Year

When you think of Christmas in a mountain town, one of the first things that comes to mind is the famous Christmas stroll, a Bozeman holiday tradition since 1980. Every year after Thanksgiving, downtown Main Street is transformed into a magical wonderland, just like a scene in a Hallmark Christmas movie. The installation of this iconic holiday decor, followed by the stroll, marks the start of the holiday season for the town.

Cache Perdue Maples, Program Director for the Downtown Bozeman Association (DBA) says that of all the unique annual events DBA coordinates each year, the stroll is the longest standing, now in its 43rd year. Cache found herself in the world of recreation and tourism after graduating from college and strongly believes in Bozeman’s “small town, big energy” vibe which is definitely evident in the stroll. “The first event was developed through a collaboration with the Baxter Hotel,” she said. “They act as the host for Santa pictures to this day.” But the Baxter Hotel is only one of many businesses who help bring it all together. In 2022, there were 21 for-profit business sponsors, 50 nonprofit activity vendors and 24 food vendors. There is no fee for businesses located downtown to participate in the stroll unless they choose to team up with the nonprofits, and then they can spread some holiday cheer by entering in the window decorating contest. 

“There are many different avenues for involvement,” Cache said, “For-profit businesses can sponsor an event, either fiscally or with in-kind raffle prize donations and receive marketing benefits and host a booth on Main Street during the event. Nonprofits are invited to host holiday activity booths and blend community outreach with festive fun, and mobile food vendors and restaurants can choose to team up with a nonprofit to donate a portion of proceeds from crowd food sales.” All nonprofit activity and food vendors pay a fee of $75, and sponsorship tiers vary. 

As with many of the free community events hosted by the Downtown Bozeman Association, sponsorship is vital. “Fiscal sponsorship contributes towards obtaining proper permitting, providing safety and sanitation for patrons, and beyond,” Cache said. “ In-kind sponsorship acts as the prizes we raffle off for purchasing a button. In fact, last year our top prize was a hot air balloon ride for 2!”

Even in 2020 during the Covid epidemic, DBA managed to keep the stroll alive and a part of the community by “reimagining” the event for the season to keep in place with health regulations. Prizes were raffled off via button sales, and many socially distanced activities were started including the holiday window decorating contest, the parade of lights, and the gingerbread house contest. Events such as the traditional holiday music concerts were posted on instagram, Facebook and Youtube for everyone to enjoy virtually that year. 

Cache says she loves seeing the crowd go absolutely wild each year as Santa parades down Main Street channeling Christmas cheer and ceremonially lighting the “spiders” at each intersection. In case you aren’t familiar with the “spiders” these are the traditional giant nets of garland cascading over the Wilson, Tracey, Black and Bozeman intersections of Main Street. They have been called everything from trees to bells to spiders over the years. “The stroll really does have something for everyone,” Cache said.  “From cozy food to fun holiday activities, it’s all covered and we hope to see you there!” This year’s Christmas stroll kicks off December 2nd at 4:30 pm.

“The first event was developed through a collaboration with the Baxter Hotel,” she said. “They act as the host for Santa pictures to this day.”

“The stroll really does have something for everyone. From cozy food to fun holiday activities, it’s all covered and we hope to see you there!”

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