Every year, over a thousand teepees descend upon Crow Agency, Montana for the annual Crow Fair. Having grown up only an hour way from Crow Agency, I’ve been kicking myself for years for never making it there, so when Visit Montana asked if I’d head out to photograph it, I jumped at the chance.
As I arrived in Billings to prepare for my trip to Crow Fair, I heard countless people discussing whether non-tribal members were allowed to attend, and the answer I received first-hand was a resounding, “Yes,” as I was welcomed in with open arms. After my visit, I was inspired to write up a how-to guide with who, what, when, and where, in order to help others experience the best of Crow Fair as well.
The Apsáalooke People of the Crow Reservation
The 101st Annual Crow Fair is a celebration of culture by the Apsálooke People that dates back to 1904. It is considered to be the Teepee Capital of the World as up to 1,500 teepees and 50,000 dancers and spectators attend the celebration. A daily parade, powwow, rodeo, and more fill the weekend with all the sights and sounds you could ask for.
Crow Fair takes place starting on the third Thursday in August and runs through Monday. Thursday is for Crow only, but non-tribal members are welcome all weekend long.
Throughout the weekend, you can find some of the best cowboys in Montana at the all-Indian INFR sanctioned rodeo. Beginning every day at noon, come to watch bareback bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing, and even Indian Relay.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10:00 am is when the main parade takes place throughout camp. Men, women, and children compete in a number of traditional regalia categories from best War Shirt, Warbonnet, Western Hat, Elk Tooth Dress, and many more. Arrive plenty early to find a parking spot, and bring a chair to enjoy the amazing array of colors.
The arbor is the centerpiece of Crow Fair and is pretty easy to find if you follow the sound of the drums and singing. Grand Entry marks the official opening of the powwow and is a call to all of the dancers to enter the arena. On Friday the Grand Entry begins at 7 pm, on Saturday it is at 1 pm and 7 pm, and Sunday it begins at 1 pm. After Grand Entry, competitions in numerous dance categories begin.
Crow Agency, Montana is about an hour east of Billings on the Crow Reservation. As you pull off the interstate, it’s immediately clear which way to head for Crow Fair. The rodeo takes place at Edison Real Bird Memorial Complex just down the road from the arbor and camp.
Where to stay:
There are a number of options to stay for Crow Fair. Because Billings is only an hour away, it’s a very solid option. Hardin is only 15 minutes down the road as well and has a number of hotels available. However, being closer or within the camp is a much more authentic experience.
The option I went with, and would highly recommend, is to get the full experience by renting a teepee at Crow Fair. I stayed in two different camps during my experience and recommend them both highly.
My first night I stayed with Rose’s camp with Crow Camp Teepee Rental. My second night I stayed with Apsáalooke Glamping as I was able to get a taste of luxury within Crow Fair. Falling asleep with the sounds of drums and singing was, without a doubt, a highlight of my weekend.
This was my first experience going to Crow Fair, but I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I can’t thank the Apsáalooke People enough for welcoming me with open arms and allowing me to come and photograph this beautiful tradition. If you do plan to visit Crow Fair, please check out this website on proper etiquette to show your respect for the dancers and their culture.
Until next time…