FORT BENTON — They say it takes a village. When it comes to the Homestead Village in Fort Benton, Bonnie Cook is that village. She has spent the last month preparing the Village to be decorated with lights for families to come see through the next week and a half. Nights in Fort Benton are about to get a little brighter thanks to the work of Cook, as she has turned a whole town into a Christmas destination.
She's laid down hundreds of feet of cable and put in hundreds of hours of work over the last month to get the Homestead Village ready for people to come and enjoy for the holidays. Once she finishes officiating volleyball each year, she gets to working on the Village and putting the Christmas season into it.
"There's a lot of scrap wood around here and different things that maybe I can start building things, painting things to add to it," Cook said. "This year I wanted everything different than it was last year. So added on to what was last year and just kind of keep it going. It makes it great seeing kids smiles and people coming in. Sometimes they'll come three or fours times while we have them up."
Cook says the Homestead Village Lights have been revamped the last three years, and it's been an honor for her to be able to give something back to her community and help put smiles on people's faces during the holidays.
"That makes a lot of people smile to have all of that going on. I am a Fort Benton native, and so to work for these people and add to my community that I've grown up in is just a great thing for me."
The village itself has been a part of Fort Benton museums for years and the lights were added back on just three years ago. It might be cold and hard work, but all worth it to help bring joy to the community during the holidays. Steve Kelly is the executive director for the State of Montana's Museum of the Northern Great Plains and says the Village has become a town staple since the lights were brought back and is excited for bringing people back together.
"Since we started getting the lights up for Christmas, it's something that's kind of getting a little bit bigger every year," Kelly said. "It's turned into very quickly into somewhat of a tradition for Fort Benton, a destination for people to see a lot of lights and a lot of Christmas spirit.
The Homestead Village Lights are free and available for anyone to come enjoy each night all the way through December 28th, starting at 5:30 p.m. each night and goes until 8 p.m. at 1205 20th Street South.