By Brad Reynolds
May 26, 1964 marked one hundred years since Montana had been incorporated as a territory of the United States. Across Big Sky Country, communities celebrated in a variety of ways. Choteau held a centennial Fourth of July event that featured a rodeo, parade, musicians, a replica of a homestead shack, and a program of Teton County history. Great Falls residents were treated to a series of special centennial year showings of Charlie Russell art at the Russell Gallery. Geraldine—which was not only celebrating the centennial but also its 50th anniversary
as a community—held a cross-country horse race, parade, barbecue, rodeo, and street dance.
As communities across the state rejoiced, some Montanans took the celebration on the road, or rather, the rail. On April 5, the Montana Centennial Train pulled out of Billings with more than 300 passengers aboard. Among them was Montana governor Tim Babcock, Centennial Queen Bonnie Jo Robbins (a 20-year-old junior at MSU), and the Centennial Band, which was comprised of 82 Montana high school students. Their destination: the New York World’s Fair.
Because of the large groups that followed the Centennial Band around the fair, they were dubbed “ the Pied Pipers.” So impressive were the young musicians that they were invited to be the honor band for Diplomats Day, where ambassadors from 67 nations were guests.
The band also made a stop at Shea Stadium to perform before the Metts-Phillies game and in-between innings. The young Montanans were broadcast nationwide, and roughly 48,000 in attendance applauded their performance.
Similarly, Montana was greeted with a standing ovation when it was announced at the World’s Fair that Montana’s float had won first place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
In addition to the World’s Fair, the Centennial Train made a special stop at the White House, where the Centennial Band was the rst ever to play in the rose garden. President Johnson complimented the musicians, their directors, and the state of Montana on a job well done.