Norman Maclean Festival moves to Missoula

Festivities include the 25th anniversary screening of "A River Runs Through It"

Books & Writers

The Norman Maclean Festival, Sept. 8-10, is relocating the Seeley Lake events to Missoula’s First Presbyterian Church, where the Reverend Maclean once delivered his sermons, due to the giant Rice Ridge Fire.

“This was a painful and tough call for the festival,” says Alpine Artisans president Gene Schade. “This year’s festival’s theme is ‘The Story of the Blackfoot’ and Seeley Lake was the summer home of Norman Maclean, where he wrote A River Runs Through It, so we were determined to stay in Seeley Lake.

“Our festival is designed to honor that literary tradition and to draw people to our magnificent community. However, this week’s mandatory evacuations and the hazardous air quality require us to be cautious and relocating to the Reverend Maclean’s historic church also seems appropriate to that legacy.”

Tom Skerritt
Tom Skerritt, who played the Rev. Maclean, in “A River Runs Through It” will be on hand for Sunday’s screening.

Sunday’s films with the creative team from “A River Runs Through It” remain at the Roxy and The Wilma, as previously scheduled/ The Festival’s Gala Dinner on Friday, Sept. 8, will still be hosted at the home of Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper Jerry O’Connell, as planned.

According to festival director Jenny Rohrer, “Norman Maclean, more than anyone, knew that wildfire is a fact of life. What’s most important is that the firefighters righting the Rice Ridge Fire stay safe. The Maclean family has a rich history in Missoula as well – and we hope to add programming to the festival that features that history.”

Friday: The Story of the Blackfoot

Two self-guided tours are still on tap Friday morning: Geology of the Blackfoot Valley and Norman’s Neighborhood.

Friday’s “Story of the Blackfoot” program will start at 1 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Missoula, 235 W. 5th St.

The program introduces participants to early Blackfeet history in the Blackfoot Valley with Jack Gladstone and an overview of valley challenges by author Richard Manning. Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs reflects on her family history in the Blackfoot and the Corps of Discovery; author Debra Earling shares the role of storytelling in Salish Culture; and Juanita Vero contributes the history of the E Bar L dude ranch. Tickets are $25, and include the morning tours.

The evening’s Gala Dinner at the Blackfoot River home of the Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper includes live music, a catered dinner and hosted bar. It’s also an opportunity to meet speakers, Land Lindbergh and Hank Goetz, who will reminisce about the establishment of Montana’s first conservation easement. Tickets are $125.

Saturday: New insights on Norman Maclean’s writing and the Headwaters Story

The Festival’s programming on Saturday, Sept. 9, is also be in the Fellowship Hall of the church. Presentations begin at 9:30 a.m. and include New Insights on Norman’s Writing,” featuring Dutch theologian and Maclean scholar Timothy Schilling together with O. Alan Weltzien, editor of the Norman Maclean Reader, and author William Bevis. Learn more about three decades of Blackfoot River conservation from David Brooks, author of Restoring the Shining Waters, and the river’s international value from Swedish fly-fishing guide Stefan Larsson.

Blackfoot Valley author and filmmaker Annick Smith brings together eight of the 49 authors who contributed writing to her 1996 compilation titled Headwaters. They will present that unique story of author activism to save the Blackfoot River from the effects of a cyanide leach gold mine at 1 p.m. Saturday. All-day tickets are $25.

Saturday’s Wine Tasting begins at 6 p.m. at Le Petit Outre Bakery at 129 S. 4th Street, near the Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $35 and may be purchased at the door.

Sunday: From the Book to the Big Screen

Sunday will begin at 8 a.m. with John Maclean presenting “Growing Up Together: The Macleans and the Forest Service” during a free chuckwagon breakfast at the newly opened National Museum of Forest Service History at 6305 Highway 10 West, just west of the airport.

In 1992, Bozeman filmmaker Dennis Aig created a one-hour documentary titled “Shadow Casting, the Making of a River Runs Through It,” which will be screened at the Roxy at 9:30 a.m., along with production photos presented by Livingston fly-fishing film consultant John Bailey.

The Wilma hosts a screening of Robert Redford’s iconic film, “A River Runs Through It,” and includes a surprise video presentation by Redford. Norman’s daughter, Jean Maclean Snyder, and actor Tom Skerritt, who played the Reverend Maclean, screenwriter Richard Friedenberg, co-producer Patrick Markey and others will take the audience behind the scenes of the film’s production in 1991-92 ($20).

The Festival will concludes at 7 p.m. at The Wilma with Tell Us Something, featuring short stories around the theme, “Up the Blackfoot.”

Updated tour information and tickets available at