Ron Holly, glue of Helena tourism

Published 4:08 pm Monday, August 1, 2011

Ron Holly and Justin Brackner in recent Wild West Days cowboy attire. Holly’s vision is to see Old Town become a destination town, reflecting the charm of its innate historical heritage. (Contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

In 1998, Ron Holly came to Helena to “live the American Dream” — that of owning his own business. Major Dundee’s 1890’s Mercantile offered western goods, Civil War attire, hats, boots, blankets, ponchos and pocket watches with the flavor of the era of Old Town Helena’s first heyday.

Ron Holly’s vision was, and is, to see Old Town become a destination town, reflecting the charm of its innate historical heritage.

Since the closing of his store, Holly has remained Old Town’s strongest promoter and a most dedicated volunteer for all events held therein. This year he revived Old Helena Wild West Trade Days, held monthly on first Saturdays since April.

Without remuneration, he has spent countless hours coordinating the vendors for Buck Creek each year, helping stage summer movies in the park — finishing tear down late Friday evening before arising at dawn to set up tents for Helena Market Days, now in its third successful year.

“Ron Holly is the glue that has held Helena Market Days together through all of the growing pains of its first two-plus seasons. He has masterfully juggled the mix of farmers and crafters, inspired the volunteers, welcomed the customers with gusto and smoothed over the occasional disagreements among all of the above,” said Bob Van Loan.

“Ron’s straight-forward talk and no-nonsense approach makes him the perfect coordinator with local farmers and artisans. While many farmer’s markets around the state have paid managers to run their event, Ron does it as a service for the community,” said Hal Woodman. “He has the wit of Will Rogers, the determination of John Wayne and I consider myself lucky to work with him . . . if you would call it work.”

Cris Nelson said, “Ron developed some great relationships with the growers that have been there from day one. Without Ron, there would not be a Helena Market Days.”

Nelson added, “I would also like to applaud two other people instrumental to the market’s success. Mary Perko conceived the idea of the weekly chef demonstrations we are becoming known for and schedules all those related details. Every chef that has come down has been very complimentary of her setup and how she caters to their every need, at her expense, even down to the tablecloths.

“And, Bob Van Loan, who has scheduled our musical entertainment for the market and has given some up and coming artists the opportunity to perform. We are hopeful that some of these acts will find great success in the industry to where we can say ‘we knew them when,’” Nelson said.

Let us, fellow Helenans, raise a brewskie in a toast of thanks to these outstanding volunteers.

Four chef demos remain:

-Aug. 6 — Chef Michael Lee — Mikey’s Grille

-Aug. 13 — Chef  Haller Magee —Satterfield’s Restaurant

-Aug. 20 — Chef Danielle — Echelon Catering

-Aug. 27 — Chef Robert Kam — Ross Bridge Resort

Laura Brookhart can be reached by email at