Angela Jamison is a native Montanan and she grew up in beautiful Bozeman. I'm the mother of two girls and write a blog about our life here and taking in the simple pleasures of family and food.
Sweet Pea Festival has long been a beloved Bozeman tradition. It is one I didn’t experience until later on in my childhood. My parents weren’t into this type of thing therefore it wasn’t until friends introduced Sweet Pea to me that I realized what it was all about. They had me at Tater Pit. I loved everything about it. Running around with friends without parents because they knew we were mostly contained to Lindley Park. Not paying much attention to the arts around us, it was more about following around boys in the way 12 year old girls do. This continued on through high school and it wasn’t until my college years I realized what Sweet Pea was actually about. The music, the performers and the creativity around us. It became a place to meet up with old friends and catch up. When I started my own family it was natural to load the stroller on the first weekend of August and head to the festivities. Of course, as often is the case with children, this changed things. No longer the care free running around or closing the festival down at night. It suddenly felt harder…holding a baby in the heat, waiting in lines for food and wanting to get home before the traffic got bad. We took a couple years off from Sweet Pea, choosing instead to leave town on this busy weekend and head to the solitude of the mountains with our babies. Three years ago, the girls at easier ages, we decided it was time to properly introduce them to the Sweet Pea Festival. However, things had changed again because now there was a new festival in town.
I first heard about SLAM from a friend while at the Sweet Pea parade that year. As she explained SLAM I instantly felt protective of the long standing festival I had loved since childhood. I didn’t understand why anyone would try to compete with such a wonderful celebration of the arts. Because I went in defensive mode I didn’t take the time to find out what it was all about. I didn’t like it. Even the name felt harsh and negative…a direct insult to Sweet Pea. I didn’t bother to find out what S.L.A.M actually stood for. We said good bye and made our way to Lindley while they headed to Bogert. We soaked up Sweet Pea with our kids and loved them getting to experience it. There was chatter amongst festival goers about the other one in town. Lots of conversations of which was better, people taking sides. This first year I was definitely Pro-Sweet Pea.
Year two of SLAM versus Sweet Pea shifted for me. I learned more about this newer festival and became interested as I found out it was about supporting local artists and musicians. I realized many of those who were brought to Sweet Pea weren’t local. I had mixed feelings about this. As a Montana girl I love the idea of all things local, but also think it’s great that a festival can bring artists from around the world. I decided it was worth finding out by actual experience. For the first time we didn’t go to Sweet Pea, but instead made our way to this small festival at Bogert Park. I was pleasantly surprised by this low-key event. It was on a smaller scale, but I dug the vibe. I liked that everyone on stage or selling their goods was from around here and love this community as much as I do. And as a family on a budget I loved that it was a free event. Knowing many people who couldn’t afford the pricey wristband prices of Sweet Pea could still come out for this event. Year two I was definitely Pro-SLAM.
This year was the third year of SLAM. Having experienced both I found myself torn between the two festivals. The happy memories from childhood pulling me towards Sweet Pea, but the older version of me knowing SLAM felt more like us. Always feeling slightly like I was betraying Sweet Pea if we didn’t make an appearance. Thoughts of doing both as so many do…hopping from one park to the next soaking up all the wonderful things each festival has to offer. In the end we stuck with SLAM and saw in its third year it has grown yet again and is finding a comfortable position in our communities tradition. I know Sweet Pea will be in our future again and I will always hold it close to my heart. No longer does it feel as if they are completing against one another, but rather complementing each other in our ever growing town. And this is a wonderful thing indeed.