The annual Dragon Boat Festival has a new venue. It’s an event that brings in thousands to the Bigfork area every year, but it will soon bring in thousands to Lakeside instead.
The Flathead Lake Lodge has been the host for the past three years.
"The first year we did it, we did the parking at the lodge, and I think we had 8,000 or 9,000 people and we decided it was too much impact in this area to have that kind of parking," said Flathead Lake Lodge owner Doug Averill.
That’s why the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau rented parking space in a lot three miles away. They were paying to have a shuttle service, but it got too costly.
"Bigfork didn't really have the space. When they found the space it was costly to shuttle people back and forth, and they're not planning on shuttling anybody here," said Somers business owner Michelle Ahern.
That’s why the venue’s being switched. Lakeside residents and businesses approached the visitor's bureau. They say they are confident they can solve the parking issue and be the new host.
"I think it can only get better if it moves over here. We've got the space, we’ve got the people that are organizing it, who are excellent," Ahern said.
Now that word has gotten out about the venue switch, people in Lakeside say they are thrilled.
"I was excited. I think it’s going to be a boom to our community, as we go into the shoulder season," Ahern said.
It’s also a big economic driver for the entire Flathead Valley.
"It has a ripple effect. It fills motel rooms in the valley and restaurants and everybody benefits," Averill said.
"When you bring in thousands of people for an event, there’s going to be vendors, the lodging establishments fill up. There’s all kinds of opportunity for people to capitalize on this and I think anything we can do to promote business along the west shore is a positive," Ahern said.
Some Bigfork residents say they don’t mind the venue switch. They say no matter who hosts it, it will still be a fun and successful event.
The Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau has secured the venue, they are just waiting for the county to approve a conditional use permit.