Lewistown Chamber adapting to pandemic-related changes

By 
Charlie Denison
Senior Reporter
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
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Lewistown Chamber Executive Director shows off “train conductor” gnomes created by a local artisan. These items will be available in the Charlie Russell Chew Choo gift shop. The train season is set to begin Friday, July 3.
Photo by Charlie Denison

The Charlie Russell Chew Choo will keep on rolling.
It may be starting late, but train season will be off and running Friday, July 3.
“We had to cancel the June trains to get the cars up to date,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jo McCauley. “We will be looking at filling the trains at half capacity, unless the Governor opens up phase two, which would put us at 75 percent capacity.”
Tickets are selling, McCauley said, but not at the volume the Chamber is used to seeing this time of year. She hopes to see this pick up as people become more confident about going out in public again.
Keeping the trains going is crucial, she said, as it helps the entire community.
“The train isn’t about making money for the Chamber,” McCauley said. “It’s about making money for the community. If those tourists come to town and go to our hotels and restaurants and stores, it benefits everybody. If we don’t have the train, it doesn’t happen.”
The train can continue to run by adhering to the phase one guidelines passed down by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
“We are trying to make the train as secure as possible,” McCauley said, “and we’re having fun with it. For example, Tammy Eckhardt of Lewistown’s Sew Pieceful is making us masks that are bandanas. They have a real cowboy and Western look, so that will be cute.

“We’ll also have extra blue disposable masks on hand for passengers.”
The food and beverage staff from Harry’s Place will also follow stringent specifications, which includes wearing masks and gloves for serving.
The Chamber has also made the train social-distance friendly.
“We have sectioned everybody separately, so there is at least six feet between tables,” she said. “People aren’t going to be out in the aisle like they are traditionally. If there are four people at one table we are going to have to put the table against the window and have them sit kind of in a U-shape, that way they’re not facing anybody else in the train car.”
Saloon girls, outlaws and singing cowboys also have to social distance.
“The saloon girls won’t be sitting in laps or kissing bald heads, I’m afraid,” McCauley said, “and the robbers will have to rob people without touching them. As for the musician, well, if we get to Phase Two he should be fine. He’s happy to do whatever we need him to do.”
McCauley said individuals involved with the train have been very supportive and cooperative of the new plans. The same goes for the Chokecherry Festival, which she and the Chamber board have no intention of canceling at this time.
“As for the 4th of July, the parade remains under discussion, but we will definitely have fireworks,” McCauley said. “There will not be an ice cream social at the Central Montana Museum. The museum, however, will be opening June 14.”
As for other changes at the Chamber, McCauley has added items to the gift shop and is working on launching an online store this summer.
For more information on the Chamber, call McCauley at 535-5436.

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