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By Zoie Koostra

Free Concert in Ovando Honors Community's Hospitality


Zoie Koostra, Pathfinder

Traveling musician and poet Ben Weaver plays the banjo at the free concert on Friday, June 15. Weaver has partnered with Adventure Cycling in Missoula to play concerts in different cities along the Great Divide route.

OVANDO - Ovandoans were treated to a free concert Friday, June 15 in honor of their community and the hospitality they show to bikers along the Great Divide long-distance biking route.

Ben Weaver, a traveling musician and poet who is also riding the Great Divide trail and providing free concerts at various locations along the way, headlined the event. The concert was set up by Missoula non-profit Adventure Cycling as a way to highlight all the community has done for riders of the Great Divide.

"Ovando is an inspiration to us at Adventure Cycling," Ginny Sullivan, Director of Travel Initiatives, said. "Ovando is setting the bar as far as hospitality. We're talking to communities all over the country about how they can be Ovandos."

Ovando recently won the 2018 Community of the Year award at the Montana Governor's Conference on Recreation and Tourism. Sullivan was responsible for its nomination.

Kathy Schoendoerfer, who worked to organize the community event, said the concert was a way to thank the people of the town for all they do for the cycling community.

"This was for the people of Ovando. The riders are here but they're just lucky they arrived in time," she joked.

Zoie Koostra, Pathfinder

A message board where riders on the Great Divide long-distance mountain biking trail can see messages from their families and write a message of their own. It hangs outside the Stray Bullet in Ovando.

During his set, Weaver thanked the audience for living their lives the way they see fit and invited anyone who had something to say to speak to him and his traveling partner for their documentary about the people they met along their ride. He said several times that his trip is about getting to know people along the way.

"The people are amazing," Weaver said. "The bike just opens up the door in a non-threatening way. When you talk to people from the bike you're not talking about politics, you're talking about your lives."

Bill Littman, a cyclist from Romeo, Mich., is biking the trail for the third time. Littman always makes sure to stop in Ovando because of the welcome he receives when he's there.

"Ovando is the very best stop on the route," Littman said. "They're just very engaging and the place is so beautiful, surrounded by all these mountains."

The event's opening act was Mike Burns, a cowboy evangelist and poet. Weaver's act was followed by Missoula-based band Good Old Fashioned.


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