Montana is now known as “The Last Best Place” and for good reason. Much of the land hasn’t been touched by corporate companies, with vast spans of hills, mountains, valleys, lakes, and forests. However it’s not all off limits. Many of the states major cities have Walmarts and McDonalds and it’s not all as mom and pop as it can be romanticized to be. But there are few small towns that remain untouched. Some are protected by rich hands who aim to reserve them – towns like Virginia City and Chico – old ghost towns that offer tours and old west variety shows. But when it comes to the real deal – Ennis, Montana is it.
Unlike those preservers ghost towns that mainly cater to tourists, Ennis is a small town that caters to it’s residents. Sure, it’s got tourists in the summer, but most just pass through on their way to Virginia City, Yellowstone National Park and Bozeman. The main drag’s got some things that aim to attracts outsiders, but it ain’t Walmart. Willie’s Distillery is a cozy yet hipster chic tasting room that no doubt brings a youthful energy to the downtown. And then there’s the Gravel Bar – maybe not so much a tourist destination as it is a bar and live music venue that attracts bands from the bigger surrounding cities.
But enough of that. Let’s talk charm. The Madison Theatre is the local cinema that plays one movie per week at 2 time slots: one on Friday night and one on Saturday. Meaning, you’re likely to run into your neighbor at the show, and even if you go alone you’ll probably be sitting with someone you know. The one grocery store is also named after the beautiful Madison River that peacefully runs right through the city.
Other notable qualities that make Ennis the last best little town? How bout the library that offers visitors temporary cards, without even asking to see an ID? Or how most of the restaurants close at 3PM because, you know after that you might as well go to any one of the local saloons and start drinkin’. My favorite touch? The tiny little ice-cream stand operated by a young boy selling scoops with Montana themed names. It’s so quaint, that if you blink you could miss it.
My hope for this small town is that it never gets touched by the hands corporate greed or overpopulation. Just go visit, enjoy, be thankful, spend a little dough, and leave peacefully.
By: Lynn Cole