HELENA — The 2021 Made In Montana Trade Show kicks off Friday at the Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds in Helena, with an estimated 125 vendors from 52 Montana towns and cities participating.
The annual trade show gives people a chance to shop a wide range of products, from clothing to pet goods, all of them made in Montana.
Helena resident Mary Boyle and her business, Birch Swing Woodworks, will be at the show for the first time this year. Boyle makes heirloom-quality, hand-crafted cutting boards out of American hardwood—inspired by one her grandmother had for decades.
“That cutting board was 60 or 70 years old, honestly, and she still used it,” Boyle said. “These are the woods those cutting boards are made out of.”
Boyle’s designs are inspired by Montana, and she says each one takes about 120 hours or more to complete. “I’m very proud of my work,” Boyle said. “I’m proud of what I do, I’m proud of the artistry, and I like sharing it with people.”
That pride in her work is exactly trade show organizers say “Made In Montana” stands for.
“It’s a symbol of exceptional quality, and it’s a symbol of who we are here in Montana,” said Susan Joy, the Made In Montana program manager.
Vendors will be selling everything from food and pet goods to clothes and cutting boards, both to individual shoppers and wholesale buyers.
The Made In Montana Trade Show opens Friday for wholesale buyers only, and Joy said some of those buyers are based out-of-state and even from out of the country.
On Saturday, the event opens to all shoppers. After tough economic conditions due to COVID-19, shows like this one are important for small businesses and craftspeople.
“Obviously, the shows are a big influx of cash over the summer months, so it did slow down and my income dropped significantly,” Boyle said.
The “Made In Montana” label is important too. Made in Montana is a state-run program that labels products made in-state. According to Joy, “Made in Montana” items are among the top 10 things tourists spend money on in the state—along with things like gas, lodging and food.
In 2019 alone, Joy said around $80-million were spent on “Made in Montana” labeled products—those dollars supporting makers right here in Montana.
“We have great artisans, great manufacturers, and we should support each other,” Boyle said.
The Made In Montana Trade Show opens to the public on Saturday at 9 a.m. Admission is free, and so is parking. For more information, click here to visit the website.