Winifred – one extended family

By 
Miriam Campan
Reporter
Friday, September 11, 2020
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Kamron Edwards welcomes customers with a warm smile and a delicious selection of specialty hot and cold beverages at Mid-State Coffee.
Photos by Miriam Campan

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Chad Schultz is one of the many residents working and raising children with his wife in the quiet and kid- friendly town of Winifred.

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Special delivery from France, Mathys Dehanne is the foreign exchange student whose dream was realized when he came to school in Winifred.

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Melissa Hickey comes to the Winifred Tavern and Café for coffee, but stays for the good conversation.

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Cheri Kjersem, Winifred town clerk, busily prepares for the monthly town meeting.

Approaching Winifred Montana, and visible atop a tall hill, is the cowboy with his dog sculpture that welcomes guests and residents alike as they ride into the small rural town called “the gateway to the Missouri River Breaks.”
For 17-year-old French exchange student Mathys Dehanne the term “Grave cool,” [or “way cool,” in English] sums up his experience so far in Winifred. Coming to America and experiencing the “west” was his dream. He loves the language, the landscape and especially the lifestyle that Winifred offers. He is also partial to “good American food,” that was offered by the school cafeteria. Mathys happily sampled the day’s Americanized lunch menu of tacos with sour cream, guacamole and refried beans as he sat with fellow students.

For long-term Winifred residents it’s the privacy, the camaraderie, a good cup of coffee in the morning, and the community’s children that make it the place to be.
Pat Dirkson moved to Winifred with her husband 25 years ago because of the friendly people and the slow pace of life. Like many Winifred residents her morning routine consists of a leisurely stroll down the one paved road to the Tavern for a hot cup of coffee and good conversation. Supporting her community means attending all of the school athletic events and when the weather is inclement, playing cards.
“I come in for the caffeine,” said fellow Tavern customer, Melissa Hickey, on her morning coffee rounds.
She added, “I love the people. They are so good to me. This is where my parents settled.”
Hickey enjoys a good game of pool with her neighbors and considers it an “old hobby,” along with taking care of her birds: a cockatiel and some finches.
Up the street from the Tavern is the Community Center, “a source of great pride,” for the town folk. It houses the post office, library, fire and ambulance, events center, a museum with the world’s largest collection of Tonka toys and the Winifred town government offices.
Cheri Kjersem, town clerk since March, prepares the agenda for the monthly town council meeting. On the agenda for the Sept. 8 meeting were items such as pool, library, museum, airport and Asbjornson trust financial reports along with new business regarding the museum and the Winifred skate park project.
On living in Winifred, Kjersem said, “It’s the people. I guess everybody cares about everyone. We are a private and nice community to live in.”
Another source of pride for Winifred is the Mid-Sate Signs company where Chad Schultz has been working for 2.5 years.
“I do a little bit of everything from sales to production to delivery,” Schultz said.
“It’s a quiet town. I have three kids and everybody looks out for everybody else’s kids. You can have a disagreement with someone, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to our community’s children,” he added.
Kamron Edwards manages the gift and coffee shop at the other end of the Mid-State Signs building with a selection of cold and hot brews to match any big-city establishment. Edwards and her family relocated from Lewistown to return to their Winifred roots.
“Life is simplified here. I really like the sense of community and coming home to family. The school is a place with all groups working together. Little kids are learning from the older children. Children here have free reign with everything from fishing to motorcycles. It feels safe,” said Edwards who grew up in Big Sandy, lived in Lewistown, and relocated to Winifred in 1993.
The school and its children are the life-blood of the community and the reason that school counselor, athletic director and local coordinator for foreign exchange students, Marietta Boyce, (who has hosted 13 children) loves Winifred even during a pandemic.
She reflected on the importance of the school and its children during this “new” school year.
“I wear many hats and a face shield. As the school counselor I think the pandemic made a huge impact on counseling school children that are scared. It’s affected our town and its people. Despite this impact the school continues to be supported whether through selling pizzas or attending a school game,” Boyce said.
Small and “grave cool,” Winifred is a community of good neighbors. As their website states, “Winifred is home of the most interesting little town in America. We love this place, so come spend some time with us and treat this place well during your stay with us.”

 

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