By LaVonne Limpus-Jurack
Have you seen it? Stanford, population 384, looks like a picture book town in a faraway place, but it’s not; it’s right here in central Montana just waiting for you to stop by and check it out.
It isn’t happening by accident, oh no, most of the town’s citizens give the majority of the credit to community member Tess Brady. Andy Anderson of Andy’s Barbershop says he believes “Stanford would be a dead town without Tess.”
Tess, well known for not wanting to be put in the spotlight, declined to comment but there were plenty of folks in Stanford willing to sing her praises. Tess has been part of the Stanford Beautification Project, established with the assistance of the Judith Basin Endowment Fund, for well over a decade. Anderson said that $7,000-10,000 are set aside for the beautification of Stanford through the fund each year.
Many of the projects Tess heads up and keeps fundraising for include flower displays, the scarecrows on Main Street, Christmas decorations, the Christmas wreath auction, the Judith Basin Endowment, the All School Reunions, Charles M. Russell skulls, the gazebo in the park, banner and light pole decorations, and Red Hot Blast.
Anderson says, “Not only does she head up many of these projects, she is the one out there making it happen.”
Tess does the majority of local flower watering (both morning and night when it is hot outside). This begins in the middle of June and ends in late October. She is fastidious about cleaning the dead and dying flowers from the displays, and the look is described as pristine. This process takes hours each day, every day.
To assist in this task, the endowment purchased a Mule (ATV) with a watering tank attached.
“Even the men who come to my barbershop comment on how beautiful it is and that’s a big deal for men to notice anything,” Anderson says.
The scarecrows are often hand-built by Brady. They go up and down Main Street and are financed by each business they stand in front of. The business can build their own, but many rely on Tess for her taste and ability to make something outstanding that they can really be proud of. The money all goes back into the general fund for beautification.
The Christmas lights that decorate the Courthouse are another community favorite. People stop into the small town on Highway 87 to see the glowing transformation. To assist the town in its Christmas cheer, Tess has been known to give away strings of lights—but not blue ones; Tess is said to really dislike them.
The wreath auction has been extremely popular and raises as much as $5,000 each season to assist the endowment. Community members are tasked with decorating the seasonal floral items, and the auction takes place at the local bar. It has excellent participation. The result is not only seen in the wreaths hung throughout the community but in the way it brings the community together to celebrate this special time of year.
Tess also heads up the Valentine-inspired Red Hot Blast. Artists donate their work to a live auction while participants dine on steak and shrimp and enjoy a wine tasting, with upwards of $6,000 raised for the endowment.
Tess has many helpers, and the work simply could not be done without them. For example, the power company hangs the lights, and others provide assistance in planting the flowers. Still, there is a bit of Tess in every display.
“She maps the flowers out for her helpers so that they will do well planted in the area they will be growing. Some have to face east–thoughtful design such as that,” says Anderson.
Many of the flowers come from Lewistown, but they are also from Linda Gluth of Denton Flowers.
While Tess is 100% a volunteer, she still works in the heart of Stanford at the Historical Society and manages the Basin Trading Co.
Next time you are near Stanford, take a moment to drive down the beautiful Main Street. You will find a community full of pride, and you might just see Tess Brady out quietly sweeping the sidewalks or humbly pulling weeds.