July 27-28, 2011
Here’s how it all happened, really…
Our wonderful Montana distributor Randy Lindberg of Quality Foods Distributing in Bozeman stopped by Country Foods to pick up an order one day in early June. He mentioned that he was able to place our 2 Country Pasta items in the 6 grocery store locations within Yellowstone National park…and that the folks in charge would like some demo (sampling) support. Needless to say, we were immediately excited! Honestly…to go spend a few days in Yellowstone during summer “working.” Who could pass that opportunity up?
Arrangements were made, and by arrangements I mean that all the hotels were booked up in West Yellowstone, MT (unless we were willing to fork out $265!) where we would spend our first night. Our choices limited, Heather managed to secure the last KOA Kabin at a campground just outside of West Yellowstone (whew!). For night number two, she finagled a 12’ x 12’ tent site near the Grant Village store. Fortunately (we checked) both locations had shower facilities available! For each day in the park, we planned to sample a cold pasta salad at two locations, spending a few hours in each.
Since we were going to “rough it” in the Park, we spent some time digging up our camping lists, comparing notes and making adjustments. Needless to say, between Heather’s extensive Montana backpacking and hiking experiences and my week-long childhood camping expeditions into the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Oregon- we were over prepared! I won’t include the whole list, but here is a sampling: Can opener, tent, tarp, sleeping bag, pillow (I STILL forgot mine!), bucket for dishes, axe, firewood (no one wants to pay ridiculous prices for a small box of firewood in a park… come on), coolers filled with pasta, ice, headlamp, FOOD, bottled water, sampling equipment, gift basket (we gave away a prize), bug spray, lantern, towel (drat, I forgot that too)… and the list goes on!
After taking bets on whether or not my packing skills were up to the task, we stuffed every available nook and cranny of the Nissan Murano full of supplies and took off! After a (mostly) uneventful drive, we arrived in West Yellowstone just about dinnertime. We unpacked what we needed for the night at the KOA Kabin and headed into town to find some vittles. We ended up at a pizza joint in town, full of locals enjoying the sports bar. The Kabin was comfortable, but I can’t remember the last time I slept on the top bunk. Fortunately, I didn’t roll out and hit the floor. In the morning, we feasted on instant oatmeal and steaming hot Tipu’s Chai before packing up and heading to our first store.
Canyon Village was bustling and full of activity by 10 am, and everyone was on a mission! Our little table was next to the cash register and across the aisle from the ice cream, so pasta was a tough sell in this store! We persevered, made some new friends and departed with high hopes for store number two. We stopped to have peanut butter & jelly sandwiches at a beautiful waterfall along the way and got some great pictures. While crossing river to the Fishing Bridge store, we got an up close and personal look at a wandering bison working his way back to the wilderness. Fishing Bridge was an easier place to sample; we set up outside between the two entrances and were able to chat more with folks going in and out. They were also hungrier at this time of day, and we were happier with our results!
That evening we drove to Grant Village, where we would stay the night in our deluxe…tent. Being “experienced” campers, we pitched the tent and started a fire before the temperature dropped. We had been eagerly awaiting the chance to try Hungry Hiker’s Beef Stroganoff (they of course use Country Pasta). So we tore open the package, followed the directions, and enjoyed a delicious hot meal! After dinner and dishes, okay – just one dish, we enjoyed s’mores over the campfire and planned our attack on the next 2 stores. After a chilly, semi-comfortable night listening to the “neighbors,” morning brought welcome warmth and purpose.
The next event was scheduled for 10 A.M. in Grant Village’s store. We gave out many samples to excited customers and learned several interesting tidbits about the park from the folks who return each summer to work there. We even heard a story about a sleepy bison who loved to spend the night just outside the door to a store employee’s RV. She would routinely call in to work explaining that she would arrive after the bison got up for the day!
Moving to our final location was very exciting, since we would be setting up at the largest Old Faithful store. This store has two levels, and was wall-to-wall people for the entire 3 hours we were there! We sampled to folks who had traveled from all the way from Israel to vacation in the Park. We met folks who had used our products for years, as well as many people who had never heard of Country Pasta. Near the end of the afternoon, Heather was kind enough to hold down the fort while I watched Old Faithful in person (for the first time). What a sight!
When we served ourselves out of a job, we packed our supplies (and souvenirs) in to the car one last time and prepared for the drive back to Polson. It was agreed that we should reflect on our time in Yellowstone while enjoying Montana-made Wilcoxson’s ice cream, available upstairs in the Old Faithful store. We had a memorable trip, and it was an exciting opportunity that I am glad we were able to participate in. As we drove out of the park toward West Yellowstone and home, we tallied the license plates we had seen on our short 2 day visit. The results are surprising…we counted plates from 45 states and 4 Canadian provinces. What a trip!!
Check out our slideshow for the highlights…including Old Faithful!