Article and Photos by J.B. Chandler
Trains, trucks, and cars mean Shelby, Montana is always on the move. The railroads crossing came before the highways crossing, and between it all lies Shelby. Take the exit, drive around town. The downtown is dynamite, but action stretches in all directions.
Arrive at night and downtown Shelby has neon lights ablazing. Once the longest city block in the West, downtown’s old signs and new signs make perfect pictures whether you’re walking around at night or day. A few bars, a few banks, but also food—the Griddle, the Alibi Pizza Place, and Kowloon Chinese Restaurant, the Prairie Peddler Coffee Shop on one end and a yoga studio at the other, the familiar HOTEL sign that seems to look at the ROXY theater sign across the street, all accentuated by the new blue awning for the Leavitt Group.
Speaking of new, the Carousel Rest Area in Shelby is a brand new tourist attraction that doubles as a rest stop. Waffle dinner fundraisers supplement the Wilcoxson’s Made in Montana ice cream scoop sales. Oh, and the carousel rides! The rebuilt carousel and her many animals have been repainted by local artists, and the stage is encircled with local landscape pictures. Look for the carousel behind Pizza Hut, next to Champions Park. The park and the carousel sit on the same grounds of the 1923 World Heavyweight Boxing match held in Shelby.
So, before the carousel was built, the most popular attraction to Shelby was the Veteran’s Memorial on the hill. This giant American flag, together with an array of smaller flags, is a beacon for travellers and tourists alike, easily seen from the interstate or the Amtrak. The entire grounds have become an American military historical site, with many fact boards and iron cutouts to add to the already impressive sight. To get to the top of the hill, take the interstate exit, take a right before the Dixie Inn, go up Frontage Road, and pull over at the white picket fence. Besides the view of the flags, you’ll enjoy the great views of the entire valley.
Speaking of the Dixie, there’s a new restaurant in town inside the Dixie Inn called Clark’s Family Restaurant. Great burgers and chicken fried steaks. Decorated with old family farm treasures, bring your camera in with you for a mini-museum tour.
If you’re a traveler coming south, the first Shelby exit takes you to my place, Ten Pin Alley. Once it’s too cold for hiking and fishing, bowling is a fun way to stay active in Montana. The big news for Ten Pin Alley is the new liquor license, so now the casino players can get complimentary cocktails in addition to the complimentary beer and wine. An array of specialty pizzas are available, as well as the best chicken wings in town, in particular, our homemade Garlic wings. Try the BBQ Hogger, or the Garlic Chicken Pizza, or my wife’s favorite, the Rauty Krauty (our sauerkraut specialty pizza). Plus there’s bowling!
With all this considered, Shelby’s favorite attraction is the girls and boys basketball home games. Rated one of the top 5 basketball stadiums in Montana, the basketball gym in Shelby is an oval domed colliseum with good seats all the way up into the rafters. No pillars (or spectators) to block your views—the very spacious arena is an exciting spot for local sports. In fact, Shelby High School often hosts class B and C basketball tournaments, which is just another draw to the beautiful community.
I haven’t even mentioned the Sweetgrass Hills, Tiber Dam, the Marias River, or the Jerusalem Rocks yet. There is much to do in Toole County and the center of it all is Shelby. It’s not too difficult to find stuff to do; you just have to get off the highway to find it!