(Call 406-222-3199 for advance rodeo tickets.)
Get out the taco hats and sunscreen for a three-day celebration unlike any other. The 4th of July in Livingston is small town America at its best — backyard barbecues, non-stop events and entertainment, an old-fashioned parade, fireworks and a world-class rodeo. Many Livingston locals think of July 4th as the kick off to summer in Montana. By this time the Yellowstone River runoff has usually subsided, hills encircling Livingston turn vibrant green and the long, hot days of summer are in full swing.
Livingston’s 4th of July festivities get cracking with the July 2nd parade in historic downtown. With many of the 19th century buildings intact, Livingston has one of the most authentic historic districts in Montana. This architectural feast along with the stunning mountain views make for a delightful backdrop for a small town parade.
On July 2nd the normally tranquil town of Livingston (population 7,500) swells to max capacity with parade goers. In anticipation, locals stake out prime sidewalk frontage early in the morning. If your lawn chair isn’t in place by 10 AM, expect to stand. The Livingston Roundup Parade usually kicks off around 3:00 PM and winds down by 5:00 PM.
The best parade viewing spots are on the west side (shady) of Main Street and in front of the Murray Hotel on 2nd Street.
The Livingston parade is a wonderful mingling of residents and out-of-towners. A quirky blend of tourists, ranchers, artists, and other town folk jam the sidewalks, ready to whoop it up. The actual parade is something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Jubilant youngsters ride on theme floats sponsored by local businesses and non-profit groups. Mule trains led by working wranglers zig-zag past cheering crowds. Shriners wearing Fez hats as big as their smiles buzz around in go-carts. Bagpipers, politicians, marching bands and candy galore are just a few of the other highlights that make the Livingston parade a wild time for the entire town.
The 4th of July in Montana wouldn’t be complete without pro rodeo. If you’re looking for world-class rodeo, small-town grit and some of the toughest cowboys in the West, The Livingston Roundup Rodeo is your ticket. Top-ranked PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) contenders and hungry new-comers compete for big-time payouts and the pure thrill of performing in Livingston, Montana, on Independence Day. As the sun sets over the Absaroka Mountains, the stands at the Livingston Fairgrounds rumble with excitement. For three nights every summer — July 2nd, 3rd and 4th — Livingston becomes the center of the pro rodeo universe!
Founded in the early 20’s, the Livingston Roundup is one of Montana’s most established rodeos. Many professional cowboys venture to Livingston in July to partake in “Cowboy Christmas” or the “Gateway Rodeos,” an exhausting three-circuit performance schedule that includes one night in Cody, Wyoming, Red Lodge and Livingston, Montana.
After the bronco riding, barrel racing, roping, wrestling and bull riding, it’s fireworks time. This is the perfect way to cap off the all-American sport of rodeo. Once the dust settles and the rodeo stock is put to bed, an evening breeze settles the crowd. The night sky lights up with the boom and pop of an impressive fireworks display. Mix in a patriotic country soundtrack over the loud speakers and you’ve got 4th of July magic!
The Livingston Roundup Rodeo gets underway on July 2nd with nightly performances continuing on July 3rd and 4th. It’s best to arrive early and find your seats as the rodeo sells out most years. The Livingston Fairgrounds are located on the corner of View Vista Drive and H Street. Parking can be an issue and traffic after the rodeo is tight. Park 4-5 blocks away and walk to the Fairgrounds for a more enjoyable experience.
Advance tickets for the Livingston Roundup Rodeo go on sale in early spring. For more information or to reserve seats, call (406) 222-3199, or write to the Livingston Roundup Association, Box 800, Livingston, MT 59047.
When the last fireworks burst dims and the traffic clears out, you may be ready to hit the town. After the rodeo, especially on July 4th, downtown Livingston comes alive with patriotic revelry and cowboy exuberance. Although the Livingston of today is a much calmer version than years past, you can still find plenty of live music honky-tonk swing on the 4th. The unofficial post-rodeo headquarters is the Murray Bar on Park Street.
Part of the historic Murray Hotel, a Livingston landmark for the past 100 years, the Murray Bar has seen its share of raucous July 4th hoedowns. The Murray on the 4th is a virtual country jukebox come alive, packed with sun-baked locals, dazed tourists and good-timing cowboys.
For those interested in pursuits more civilized than rodeo and late-night rollicking, the Livingston Depot Center’s Festival of the Arts on July 2nd, 3rd and 4th is a nice alternative. This outdoor art festival held in Depot Rotary Park (next to the train depot on Park Street) is an annual arts and crafts fair that attracts talented artisans from around the country. Stroll from booth to booth, talk with artists, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the shade as the trains thunder by the Depot.
With so many events packed into three days, July 4th in Livingston, Montana, can be overwhelming. Map out your days ahead of time and try not to pack in too much. If you need a break from town, go for a hike in Paradise Valley or throw a blanket down for a picnic and a nap in Sacajawea Park.
Brad Bunkers, GoLivingston.com founder and editor, wears many creative hats. In addition to producing the Livingston travel guide, he owns the Livingston, Montana graphic design and branding company, Engine 8; maintains a Livingston fine art studio; produces the international arts journal, HoboEye; and sits on two non-profit boards. Visit engine8design.com or bradbunkers.com to learn more about Bunkers.
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