Weekend Bustle Brings Boon To The Flathead - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Weekend Bustle Brings Boon To The Flathead

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KALISPELL -

It's shaping up to be a busy weekend in the Flathead.

People are already on their way for either the Montana Pond Hockey Classic at Foy's Lake, the bridal expo, or the state Special Olympics.

Although the puck drops at 9:00 a.m. Friday, the Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) has been planning the Pond Hockey Classic for more than a year.

While that's going on, 22 models will be strutting down the runway in bridal gowns and tuxes, and athletes from across the state will be competing at Whitefish Mountain Resort in the Special Olympics.

That's a lot of people in the Flathead for just one weekend, but the CVB says that's the goal this month.

"Any of our events are important to the local community and especially when we can bring in an event in February when there's not a whole lot going on," explained Rob Brisendine with the Kalispell CVB, "Our hotel occupancy is at 40%."

Compare that to upwards of 90% in the summer.

"We purposefully position these events in the shoulder season," said Brisendine.

Brisendine says about 400 players are going to be on the lake this weekend and he estimates 1,200 people will come out each day.

Bridal consultant Shelby Kropp also expects more than a 1,000 to come out to the expo, along with more than 70 vendors.

"I'm super excited about the expo. I love it. It's really fun. Lot's of people get together," said Kropp.

Volunteer Special Olympics coordinator Karen Kimball says there will be about 250 volunteers and 300 athletes on the slopes.

It all adds up to a pretty big economic boom, but they're still working to close that gap between the summer tourism highs and the off season lows.

"We need to make sure that we look at opportunities to find winter events that make sense," said Brisendine.

Only in its first year, the Pond Hockey Classic is drawing 51 teams to Foy's Lake, 11 more than expected.

Forty of those teams are coming from a hundred miles away, or more.

This is the twelfth year for Kalispell's bridal expo, and the nineteenth year for the state Special Olympic games.

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