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Blues, folk and Latin-inspired music will flow out of Women’s Park on Friday as Helena welcomes a new music festival to downtown.

Four bands, food trucks, local brews and craft vendors are lined up for the nonprofit Meadowlark Music Festival, organizer and Montana Club general manager Micah Eller said. Abundant support from local sponsors means that all proceeds from the $5 entry fee will be going to the Prickly Pear Land Trust.

“We wanted to do something that would give back to the whole community,” Eller said. “We decided the best way to do that is supporting our local public lands.”

After the Mount Helena Music Festival came to an end in 2015 following an attempted comeback, Eller and friends at the Montana Club decided the city was in need of a replacement.

Blues legend Johnny Rawls will headline the festival with contemporary stylings of his Mississippi roots. Now 65, Rawls has been a working blues guitarist since high school. Rawls’ first live album, 2004’s “Live in Montana”, was recorded at the Helena Civic Center.

Kicking off the event is Rotgut Whines, a self-described “fingerpickin’ soul and roll” band recently named a Best New Band finalist by Missoula Independent’s Best of Missoula poll. The duo met in Helena in 2014 and moved to Missoula a year later to record an album.

Los Marvelitos, a Helena-based Latin-tinged folk band, and Junk Man's Choir, a local Americana bluegrass band, round out the middle of the lineup. Junkman’s Choir offered to donate their pay from the festival to Prickly Pear Land Trust.

"We are deeply grateful to be the beneficiary of the Meadowlark Music Festival. New partnerships like this one are key to growing our work," said Prickly Pear executive director Mary Hollow. "In PPLT's biggest year yet, and in keeping with our goal to underscore the community values of conservation and trails, we are thrilled to expand those opportunities to more people in our service area."

The festival will be serving local beers from Lewis and Clark, Blackfoot and Ten Mile breweries, hard cider from Lockhorn Cider in Bozeman, and an array of Montana hard liquors and regional wines.

Cool Cats Hot Dogs, Pennies On The Go, BlissCorn kettle corn and Helena’s newest food truck, Saigon Alley, will be serving up grub at Women’s Park. Recycling will be available at the festival, and vendors were incentivized not to use Styrofoam, Eller said, in order to promote “being green” in Helena.

Over 10 craft vendors are scheduled to set up at the event, and there will be a “sunscreen station” for kids.

This won’t be the last of Meadowlark Music Festival, Eller said. She hopes it will continue to grow in future years, and maybe expand to a multi-day affair supporting other local nonprofits.

“We have a big emphasis on local here at the Montana Club and Rathskeller, so we’re trying to incorporate that into every aspect of Meadowlark.”

Attendees should bring cash for the entrance fee, as well as $1 wristband for alcohol if desired, as no cards will be accepted. Accessible restrooms will be available at the event.


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