Best Places to Live

Bozeman, MT

Population: 47,275
Photo: Sweet Pea Festival

The annual Sweet Pea Festival unites Bozeman, MT, when residents participate in many activities highlighting the community's history, restaurants, artists and favorite flower - the sweet pea.

Though the festival itself lasts three days over a weekend, several activities leading up to the festival build a celebratory atmosphere all week. First, chalk artists decorate sidewalks throughout downtown Bozeman, where Main Street becomes a giant food court for Bite of Bozeman, an event during which 40 local restaurants serve food and musicians play on street corners. The Bozeman Public Library also hosts a juried art show that opens during festival week.

"By attending our prefestival events you can experience our thriving downtown, where every storefront is occupied by a locally owned business with unique offerings and friendly customer service," says Andria Huntsinger, executive director of the Sweet Pea Festival. "As the weekend approaches, meander a few blocks east down Main Street to Lindley Park to witness community service and spirit at its finest."

The modern day Sweet Pea Festival got its start in 1978, but takes inspiration from a series of carnivals held in the early 1900s. The festival opens on Friday with flower shows, Shakespearean performances and live music. A children's run kicks things off on Saturday, and a parade follows. A variety of performances occur throughout the festival grounds while artists and craftsmen sell their work under the shade of giant trees.

Thousands of runners, many dressed in costumes, race to the finish line during the Big Sky Wind Drinkers Stampede 5k and 10k, which ends on Main Street.

Festival organizers use proceeds to fund local arts grants, and approximately 15 local nonprofit groups raise money selling food.

When: First weekend in August

What: More than 100 arts and crafts vendors, theater and dance performances on four stages, live music, kids zone, 5k and 10k races, parade

Cost: $15 for three-day pass, $10 for adult day pass, $5 for child day pass, free for children 6 and younger

Average Attendance: 14,000 to 16,000

See where Bozeman ranked on our list of the Top 10 Winter Cities.