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Bozeman, Montana The Sweet Pea City

Sweet Pea From Carnival to Festival

by Angie Ripple

Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley have been known as the valley of the flowers since only native Americans roamed the area. In the early 1900’s over 17,000 acres of the valley were planted in edible peas harvested both for canning and seed. In 1906, Bozeman competed with Billings to gain the location for a lucrative sugar beet factory from Utah that was looking to place a new processing plant in Montana. In efforts to gain their business, a Mr. Buchanan, the new secretary of the Bozeman Commercial Club, now the Chamber of Commerce, in an endeavour to make Bozeman a commercial center, suggested a “Sweet Pea Carnival” after seeing Dr. and Mrs. JM Waters beautiful sweet peas at the corner of South Olive and 4th Street. The Waters’ made a living selling sweet peas by the car load to Butte and Helena.

Mr. Buchanan dubbed Bozeman the “Sweet Pea City” and the first Sweet Pea Carnival was held in August 1906 seeing a surprisingly large turnout. Bozeman quickly became known as the Sweet Pea Capital of the nation, and was second only to Portland’s Rose Carnival in the idea of presenting a floral carnival. Visitors riding trains to Bozeman for the carnival were greeted with fragrant bouquets of Sweet Peas. The first events featured a parade down Bozeman’s dusty and unpaved Main Street, an especially grand king and queen coronation, and a baseball game. The edible and fragrant sweet pea flower was the Carnival’s emblem and was used to promote the festivities.

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