My family tried to go to the Sweet Pea Festival every year. At the last Sweet Pea Festival I got lost. First I was just wandering around the stalls and then I wandered into the forest. I went all the way down the little river that goes under the bridge, through the bogs, past the mini-waterfalls and then we couldn’t go any further because we reached the road. Jackson and I then wandered back to a little area where my family had set out their blankets. We realized that we had been gone for a while. It was a memorable experience even though we got into trouble. A century ago Bozeman kids were wandering around the Sweet Pea Festival, too.
The first festival began Saturday morning, August 11, 1906. Main Street in Bozeman was clean and shiny and filled with elaborate displays for the festival. Confetti fluttered through the air. Huge tubs of sweet peas marked the parade route. Back then this wasn’t a festival of the arts, it was a carnival and a parade so businesses could advertise their wares and people would come to Bozeman. Each and every year they crowned a Sweet Pea queen. The first Queen of Sweet Pea was Kathryn Hanley. Other activities included a baseball game with a prize purse and music. But this carnival did not last long. After only eight years, in 1914, Europe was engulfed in turmoil with the start of World War I. As a result, Sweet Pea came to a halt and wouldn’t be revived for seven more decades.
In 1978 Sweet Pea was reborn in a festival of the arts centered at Lindley Park. The Sweet Pea committee made sure that it was like the original celebration. They still have the parade and entertainment, but no Sweet Pea Queen. The new festival celebrates music, theatre, dance, and arts and crafts. It is a special event that people look forward to all year.