The Dino Shindig, put on every summer since 2013 by the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka, was named “Event of the Year” Monday night during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation in Helena.
The two-day event celebrates paleontology and brings in speakers and attendees from all over the world to Ekalaka, way down in the southeast corner of Montana. Last year, one of the speakers was Kirk Johnson, director of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
According to a press release from the Montana Department of Commerce, sponsor of the 2017 Montana Tourism Awards, the awards “celebrate the outstanding work of the communities, businesses, organizations and people who strengthen Montana’s tourism industry and thereby contribute to maximizing its economic impact for Montana residents.”
The Carter County Museum, established in 1934, was the first county museum in Montana and the first museum in the state to display dinosaurs. Ekalaka sits amid the layer of sediment known as the Hell Creek Formation, which has produced prodigious numbers of dinosaur fossils over many decades.
The first Dino Shindig was organized by Ekalaka native Nathan Carroll, then still working on his undergraduate degree at Montana State University. The annual event has grown to include a demonstration of paleo-Indian tools, a bat walk and an introduction to the nearby Medicine Rocks State Park.
Winners in other categories of the Montana Tourism awards were:
♦ Marketing Campaign of the Year: Butte.Elevated.
♦ Heritage and Cultural Tourism Award: Fort Benton Museums, River and Plains Society.
♦ Community of the Year: Livingston.
♦ Tourism Ambassador: Jocelyn Dodge, Butte.
The statement of nomination for the Carter County Museum said the Dino Shindig has made out-of-the-way Ekalaka “a destination and the fossil dig an affordable bucket-list item.”
“The Shindig has significantly raised our annual visitation from 1,000 people in 2012 to 3,804 in 2016,” the statement continued. “We offer an experience of western hospitality and education about fossils in the area in which they were discovered.”