Big Sky Connection

Eric Tegethoff

October 4, 2016

HELENA, Mont. - Montanans only have one week left to register to vote through the mail. After that, they'll have to go into their local elections office if they want to vote this November. Late registration begins on Oct. 12 and runs through Election Day.

Montana is one of only 12 states that doesn't allow online voter registration. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said it's been a barrier to making voter registration easier, but state legislators have turned down online voter registration because of safety concerns.

"They always claim there's fraud involved, but they pay their taxes online, they pay their bills online, they bank online, they do a number of things online, and online voter registration is really the safest," she explained.

She said the state also lacks automatic voter registration, the system that allows people with driver's licenses who are eligible to vote to be placed automatically on the voter rolls.

Still, Montana's election system performs well, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts Election Center, which ranked the state 12th in the nation during the 2014 election.

In past elections, Native American activists have criticized Montana for not providing more access to voting in their communities. McCulloch said the state is addressing these concerns, and now leads the nation in protecting ballot access for native communities.

"Last October, I directed all counties with Indian populations to set up early voting offices on reservations," she said. "So right now in Montana, we have 13 satellite offices across 10 counties to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to vote."

Absentee ballots will be sent out on Oct. 14 and must be received by the local elections office or polling place by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. McCulloch said 60 percent of Montanans voted with absentee ballots in the last election.

September 21, 2016
Butte - The following is a list of awards that were given to films from the first Covellite International Film Festival.

SECOND CHANCE, 87 min, directed by Carlos Cardona of New York. In this film Oscar attempts to fix what he broke. After a home invasion goes horribly wrong, Oscar tries to help the girl whose life he ruined in the invasion. SECOND CHANCE won the Judge's Award.

ADOPTING TROUBLE, 80 min, directed by Lee Shawn Gardener. Nick and Maryanne are unable to have children, but desperately want them. Interesting events take place as they kidnap a young pregnant woman on her way to get an abortion. ADOPTING TROUBLE won the Narrative Feature.

IN THE PARLOR: The Final Goodbye, 80 min, directed by Heidi Boucher & Ruby Sketchley. Rejecting the mainstream tradition of hiring funeral professionals to care for deceased, families in search of a ore personal and fulfilling way to say goodbye are taking an active role in caring for relatives who have died. IN THE PARLOR won for Documentary Feature.

CHAOS MANAGEMENT, 3 min, directed by Michelle Muldoon. An exhausted female professional uses a creative solution to deal with an early morning distraction. CHAOS MANAGEMENT won for Short Film Award

, 32 min, directed by Cheryl Robson. This film tells the story of a small island in the Thames River in London where the origins of R & B began in a crumbling old hotel with a sprung dance floor. ROCK N ROLL ISLAND won for Short Film Award

LESTER LEAPS IN,  30 min, directed by Mike Steinberg. At a lumber mill in 1970s Montana, a middle manager struggles to produce a safety film. LESTER LEAPS IN won for Short Film Award

LEFT OUT: Between the Two Party Horse Race, 57 min, directed by Jesse Bertel. A documentary that sheds light on the ways third-party candidates gain support while marginalized by the news media. LEFT OUT won the Frank Little Award for Self-Sacrifice & Social Change Award.


By Diane Larson

During political seasons we are flooded with political ads; the news programs are telling us who is good, who is bad, who is lying, who is telling the truth and ultimately who to vote for. All of the information just makes your head hurt because in the end so often we feel it doesn’t matter. How often have we heard, well my vote doesn’t count. A film that is being screened this weekend at the Covellite International Film Festival explores this topic and looks at the underlying reasons we feel this way and explores what we can do to make a difference.

Filmmaker Jesse Bertel will be in Butte this weekend screening his documentary Left Out: Beyond the Two Party Horse Race. The film will be shown Saturday at noon in the Mountain View Music Hall at 301 Montana Street.

This film is an exploration of the American political system set against the backdrop of corporate media and how that relationship affects free speech and democracy. It questions the two-party system and explores why it is difficult or nearly impossible for a third-party candidate to be taken seriously or get much media attention. “I want people to be able to see the truth, to understand what is happening in media and in the political arena,” said Jesse. He also went on to say, “I want the overall takeaway be that we can run a third-party candidate and win.”

“I think it is important to understand that third party candidates are marginalized in many different ways,” says Jesse. This film looks at the ways third-party political candidates are marginalized by the big news media, by the public and our governing powers. It also explores how the public or the masses also feel marginalized as well by the current two-party system. Do we have a democracy in this country where all voices are heard as we have been led to believe, or is it a plutocracy, a government run only by and for the wealthy. Also, is the two-party system working or is it a dichotomy—even a false dichotomy?

To look at all of these issues Jesse interviews American linguist, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky, host of Democracy Now Amy Goodman and American political activist Ralph Nader.  He asks them, why don’t third-party’s work, among other questions.  The discussions revolve around, democracy vs. plutocracy, free speech and political spoilers, which is a term used to describe the third-party candidates.

Jesse uses the setting of the third-party campaign of Luis J. Rodriquez who was running as the Green Party candidate for governor of California against Jerry Brown in 2014 to support the narrative.

My goal for this film, says Jesse “is to open peoples eye’s, educate them to what is going on…that third party candidates are relevant in today’s politics and that they can provide realistic solutions if they are not ignored by media.” He also said, “I wanted to do what the media wasn’t doing, pay attention to them. To show people there is a reason we should be looking at these people.”

In the end, Jesse says, “there is an alternative message here, we can change the discussion.”







The 2016 GobCon is this weekend, September 16 and 17 at Front Street Station in beautiful Butte.

September 12, 2016

Butte - GobCon is a convocation event dedicated to the science fiction/fantasy/horror genres of entertainment. It is an event that is all encompassing and interactive for the enthusiasts of any of these creative fields.

GobCon is a product of Valor Infinity Studios, LLC which was founded in 2005 and is an independent, creative imaging and publishing studio. GobCon is celebrating its third year this weekend.

At Gobcon you can participate in cosplay by dressing up as your favorite character from a movie, book or video game. There will be guest/speaker panels and instruction sessions such as Pod Casting 101, Digital Photography, Medical Realism and Gore Special Effects, The Art of Cosplay, The Art of Writing Fiction and the list continues.

Musical guests include some of our favorite local artists such as Russell Nelson with Shellshock Lullaby and Amestris. Other musical entertainment includes At Home in Hell who, are out of Great Falls and the Helena Pipes and Drums of the Black Devils. Also coming from Las Vegas is Tonight We Fight.

Vendors will line the halls and have everything from role playing games, comic books, to paintings and Montana made crafts such as paintings to someone who makes Steampunk hats.

Lions club will set up food vending and Butte Brewing will serve refreshments.

During the day it is completely family friendly and considered a family event. There is something for people of all ages.

A big part of the event is the cosplay. Cosplay is about the fun and the experience of dressing up to be someone that you are not during your normal day to day life. It is about taking on new personae or stepping into a new character. 

Lyndsay Alt, Media and Production Manager at Valor Infinity says cosplay gives people a chance to express their inner creative and not be self-conscious. It provides that comfort, as if to say, “Ok I don’t have to feel like such an outcast for wearing my Star Trek uniform, or my Star Wars or being Wonder Woman, it’s just like, … it’s a place where everyone can meet.”

Lyndsay said that at GobCon they get everyone from adult professionals to little children. Events like this are becoming more mainstream than in years past. So many people enjoy putting on a costume and having that inner person, the inner superhero come out and have fun with this new character, explains Lyndsay.

The people who get into cosplay sometimes spend years perfecting their costumes and personalities. Lyndsay also explained that cosplay is empowering, especially for children. “I saw a little girl that was a storm trooper,” said Lyndsay. They can be warriors or princesses, it doesn’t have to be some traditional character. Boys also, she explained, don’t have to be a sports hero. If they want to be Captain Kirk, they can take on that character. Superheroes, for girls and boys, are empowering characters and help build confidence.

Sam Debree of The Original Nightmare Halloween haunted house, will teach a session on the ‘how to’s’ of special effects make-up, specializing in creepy gore. Lyndsay Alt will teach all about cosplay. These are just two of the many reasons to attend this weekend.

Lyndsay said everyone at Valor Studios is really excited for their third event, “It is a labor of love and we can’t wait to be non-profit.”

Gobcon wants to pull away from Valor Studios to become independent and to be able to offer this event to the public for no admission charge in the future. The hope is this year they will be able to accomplish just that.

Tickets can be purchased online at A one-day admission pass is $3.00. A general admission pass for two-days is $5.00, and it is $15.00 per person for the costume ball. You can purchase a GobCon bundle pass that gets you into just about everything for $15.00 per person, as well, however there are a limited number of bundle passes.

GobCon is looking for volunteers to sit at the front desk, take money, be gophers for the guests of honor and set-up and take down. Volunteers will receive free admission.

The schedule is online at

If you have never been and decide to go this year, you can expect to see the vendors from all over the state, people in costumes, education sessions and speaker panels. You will get to see cosplay guest of honor Miss Mouse and the guest of honor at GobCon Malissa Longo. Check them out at their website

“Everyone is welcome, it doesn’t matter what your age [is], you genre [preference], it doesn’t matter, you will find something you love at GobCon.” Lyndsay said, she added “that is the point, it is for everyone.”


Visit Billings and Rocky Mountain College team-up to host 37th and 38th annual events

September 07, 2016
By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is excited to announce that the 2017 and 2018 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships are heading to Billings, Mont. Visit Billings and Rocky Mountain College (Mont.) serve as the official hosts with the event taking place inside Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark March 15-21, 2017 and March 14-20, 2018.

“We are excited about our Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship finding a home in the great northwest,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “We are confident that Visit Billings and Rocky Mountain will deliver on a first-class event that will be an outstanding experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.”

The state of Montana has previously welcomed a NAIA national championship event 11 times in association history, however March of 2017 marks the first basketball championship to travel to the Treasure State. The most recent event came in 2004 when NAIA’s wrestling national championships were held in Great Falls, Mont. – approximately 220 miles from Billings – for the then-third-straight year.

“We are thrilled to be named the host community for the 2017 and 2018 women’s basketball national championships,” said Alex Tyson, Visit Billings Executive Director. “While the economic impact and privilege to host the NAIA for this event is appreciated as a city, being able to offer this caliber of play to Billings and regional residents, will be an even greater opportunity as a community.”

The city of Billings itself is no stranger to NAIA events, as the locale served as the home of the NAIA Men’s Outdoor Track and Field National Championships from 1968 – 1972.

"We are ecstatic about being named as the host for the 2017 and 2018 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championships," said Bruce Parker, Rocky Mountain College Director of Athletics. "We are blessed to live in a wonderful community (Billings) that supports championship-level events. Rocky and the city of Billings are looking forward to making this an unforgettable experience for the student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans."

Originally constructed in 1975 and later renovated in 2010 – 2011 following a tornado that wrecked the facility, Rimrock Auto Arena is a 10,500-seat multi-purpose venue that hosts a multitude of events throughout the year, including various levels of Montana State High School basketball and the state’s All Class Wrestling Tournament.

Visit Billings, a division of the Billings Chamber of Commerce, focuses on the promotion and marketing of Montana’s Trailhead. The group focuses on showcasing how “The Magic City” can be a destination for leisure, group and business travel.

Rocky Mountain College is a residential, liberal arts college of approximately 1,000 students located in Billings, Mont. The Battlin’ Bears are members of the Frontier Conference and currently offer 12 varsity and three junior varsity sports, including both men’s and women’s basketball. As the host institution, Rocky Mountain receives an automatic berth into the championship field. Should the program qualify automatically via the Frontier Conference, an additional at-large position will be available.

The NAIA has sponsored Division I Women’s Basketball since the 1980-81 academic year, with the inaugural championship taking place in Kansas City, Mo. Former member Kentucky State downed Texas Southern, 73-67, to become the association’s first-ever Division I Women’s Basketball national champion. Currently, there are 94 institutions that sponsor women’s basketball at the Division I level.

Since 1937, the NAIA has administered programs and championships in proper balance with the overall educational experience. In 2000, the NAIA reaffirmed its purpose to enhance the character-building aspects of sport. Through the Champions of Character program, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.

To learn more about NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball, click here.

To learn more about Visit Billings, click here.

For more information about Rocky Mountain College, click here.