SIGMT 2022 Summer

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SIGNATURE MONTANA | 59 Cheryl might be known best for her fabulous special events. Her seemingly infinite energy and imagination made each event historic in scope, drawing in the locals as well as visitors from across the state and beyond. e popular events always sold out. One of the more memorable events, "Kimonos to Cowboys," melded her two worlds of Asia and Montana. A Japanese chef was flown in from San Francisco for the Far East and Wild West tasting menu. Half of the guests wore Asian dress, and the other half western wear for the Halloween party. e two-day event also featured Asian and Western art. eir New Year's parties were different every year but always had a fun theme, transformative décor, and live music. Cheryl says the "Grand Gatsby" was probably the most elaborate with its Roaring 20s theme that included huge white feather plumes and a professional dancer hired to teach the Charleston. ey held wine and beer tasting events featuring pairings with their chef 's superb fare in the spring and fall. e holiday season is highlighted by the Fort Benton Christmas Stroll, including a nostalgic horse and buggy and a live tree that reached the ceiling in the hotel lobby. Events such as their Murder Mysteries and Victorian High Teas allowed guests to be players in a play and step into a magical and playful place. Cheryl says that the 130th Anniversary party, "A Century of Food and Fashion," was probably her favorite. e fashion show began in the present and worked backward with authentic clothing from each decade that culminated with an actual ball gown worn at the grand opening of the Grand Union in 1882. Cheryl and her close friend and colleague, Laurie McCullough, researched businesses that brought fashion to Fort Benton and gathered models and mannequins to present the carefully accessorized fashion. Make-up artists and hairdressers were brought in to create the look of each era. A dinner featured popular dishes from over the century. e next day followed with a Vintage Car Show. Cheryl emphasizes that she couldn't have done it without the help of staff and friends. But to her credit Cheryl did it all – from making beds to entertaining celebrities. As she hands over the keys to new owners, she ponders what she will miss most. "I am going to miss the interesting guests who have walked through our doors from all corners of the world, my repeat customers who have become close friends, my staff who have become an extension of my family, and I will miss the Grand Lady herself. I would never have imagined that it would be possible to fall in love with a building, but indeed I did!" It is a love affair that will live on because as Cheryl poured her heart into the hotel – she became the heart of the Grand Union. When she leaves, it might be the end of a chapter, but her legacy lives on in the vital and memorable chapter she wrote in the history of the Grand Lady. Kay Bjork is headquartered on Swan Lake where she and her husband have launched on a multitude of Montana adventures. S MT A vintage car show capped off the 130th Anniversary party, "A Century of Food and Fashion." Stripped of most of the fixtures, Cheryl researched original lighting and had them custom-made during the restoration.

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