Big Sky Connection


Eric Tegethoff

January 6, 2017

WHITEFISH, Mont. - The community of Whitefish and Montana leaders are sounding alarms about a possible armed march by white supremacists in the coming weeks, and two local groups are responding with an event of their own.

Love Lives Here and the Montana Human Rights Network are co-sponsoring the "Love Not Hate" party on Saturday in Whitefish to help fight weeks of harassment of the town's Jewish residents by users of a neo-Nazi website. Rachel Carroll-Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said these issues are nothing new to members of Montana's Jewish community.

"It just feels different because we all kind of, really, have a heightened awareness about the microphone some of these bigot ideas have been given by the candidacy of Donald Trump," she said, "and that concerns folks."

The Love Not Hate party will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Depot Park and include speakers and musicians such as Blackfoot Nation singer and storyteller Jack Gladstone.

The harassment has been denounced by state leaders, including the governor, Montana's entire congressional delegation and the mayor of Whitefish. More than 50 religious leaders have spoken out against the online attacks as well. Many Whitefish businesses and community members are displaying paper menorahs in their windows to show support for the city's Jewish residents.

Carroll-Rivas said opponents of the harassment greatly outnumber its supporters.

"It is important to talk about the danger of hateful ideas," she said. "They are powerful, even if they're coming from a very few, extremist, loud voices. But it isn't balanced, in the sense that the large amount of unified support for human rights, for the Jewish community and against hate has been huge and astronomical, and really heartening."

The Montana Human Rights Network also has received threats. For the day of the white supremacist march, tentatively scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the group is planning "Project Lemonade," to raise money for things such as increased security for Jewish families and institutions in Montana. In essence, the white supremacists will be raising the money - since donors will pledge an amount for every minute the hate group marches.



NILE Foundation
January 4, 2017
Billings, Mont. - The Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) Scholarship Program funded by the NILE Foundation, is now accepting applications for scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year. 
Since 1990, the NILE has awarded scholarships to deserving FFA and 4-H students that have been actively involved in their respective programs and communities, excelled in the classroom, and participated in NILE events. "Promoting the future of agriculture through the support of youth via scholarships is a long standing tradition of NILE." says Jennifer Boka, General Manager of the NILE. "Educating today's youth to be tomorrows ag proponents is crucial to the entire world and we are NILE are proud to support and embrace the future of agriculture."
Similar to previous years, the NILE Scholarship Committee will be awarding three levels of scholarships.  The first level will be the one-time scholarship awarded to high school seniors, similar to what the NILE has always done. The second level of scholarships offered will also be a one-time grant, for students already enrolled in College or a Vo-Tech school. Finally, the third level, which will offer the greatest scholarship amount, will be a rolling scholarship. The rolling scholarships will be offered to a select group of High School Seniors who will have the opportunity to renew the scholarship yearly, up to four years of their secondary education. Recipients of rolling scholarships will be chosen from the pool of applicants that are current seniors in High School.
Each year the NILE touches the lives of nearly 10,000 youth through its many programs, events, "live" animal scholarships, and college scholarships. Every year the NILE provides over $55,000 in cash and live animal scholarships.
The NILE Foundation was established in 2009 as a supporting arm of the NILE organization, which is dedicated to the promotion of livestock, agriculture education, and respect for the western culture.
Scholarship applications and guidelines can be found on the NILE's website, or by contacting the NILE Office at 406-256-2495. Applications must be submitted to the NILE Office by March 1, 2017 at 5 p.m.. Applications incomplete or late will not be considered. Scholarships will be awarded and announced in early April 2017.

When did the American people decide as a culture to stop toasting things? Watching any old-timey movie, or reading any classic book, I get the impression that our forefathers knew how to mark an occasion. Kid got accepted into college? “I’ll get the champagne!” Promotion at work? “Break out the bubbly!” Find a sweet, unmetered parking spot? “Drinks all around!”

I can’t help but wonder if we have less opportunities to celebrate, or if we moved the bar for what was worthy of celebration. Asking around, I find that people seem to be a little intimidated by champagne. Even for people who know their way around a wine rack, champagne seems a little more exotic and unapproachable than the normal varieties of grown-up grape juice. However, approached with a little know-how and open mindedness, sparkling wines can be  a welcome guest to any celebration.

Champagne, in true French tradition, follows a lot of rules. True champagne can only be produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and following rules that require, among other things, secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation, specific vineyard practices, sourcing of grapes exclusively from specific parcels in the Champagne appellation (read: region) and specific pressing regimes unique to the region. While many use the term Champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine, in many countries it is illegal to officially label any product Champagne unless it both comes from the Champagne region and is produced under the rules of the appellation.

That being said, there are a litany of high quality sparkling wines that should never be scoffed at. The viticultural and winemaking practices of making sparkling wines have many similarities to the production of traditional wines with some distinct differences. At the vineyard, grapes are harvested early when there is still high acid levels. Unlike still wine production, high sugar levels are not ideal and grapes destined for sparkling wine production may be harvested at higher yields. Care is taken to avoid tannins and other phenolic compounds with many premium producers still choosing to harvest by hand rather than risk mechanical harvesting which may split the berries and encourage maceration between the skins and juice. This process encourages, primarily, subtle flavors and aromas that make sparkling wines so darn good and pairing with other flavors. High acid content and softer perfume qualities make sparklers an easy going friend, and one who tends to get along with everyone.

Now that we know a little about what makes sparkling wine so special, what is the best way to go about indulging ourselves?

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to enjoy champagne is in a white wine glass. A white wine glass's larger bowl enables the wine to open up in the glass, allowing you to better enjoy all the aromas and to savor the complexity of the champagne. Traditional champagne flutes are perfect for showcasing champagne's stream of bubbles, but their narrow shape limits the drinker's experience of aromas and flavors.

Another common misconception about champagne is to leave it in the fridge. If you're planning to enjoy your bottle of champagne immediately (within 3 or 4 days after buying it) storing it in the refrigerator is fine. But if it sits there for weeks the cork can dry out as refrigerators are also de-humidifiers. As corks dry out, the seal between the bottle and the cork loosen up and the champagne will oxidize faster, changing its aromas. Instead, keep it in a cool place in your home, away from any light, and where the temperature is consistent.

Once you're ready to enjoy your champagne, the best way to chill your bottle is to fill an ice bucket with ice and one-third water and allow your bottle to cool for 15-20 minutes. Bonus points for awesome presentation. Also, remember to hold your glass by the stem and not by the bowl because your hands will warm the champagne up too quickly. (Also, holding the glass by the stem will make you look like you’re an old hand at bubbly.)

Don't be afraid to experiment with food pairings! Oysters and caviar are fantastic with champagne, and more casual foods like french fries, fried chicken and cheese are equally delicious with Champagne! Champagne loves oily, salty and fatty foods as they bring out the wine's fruitiness and freshness, so foods like burgers, tacos, BBQ sauce, and lobster are exciting new pairings to try that champagne connoisseurs have been enjoying for years!

If you have a bottle of champagne in your refrigerator, don't wait for a special occasion to enjoy it. You will see that by opening that bottle, the special occasion will come to you.

January 4, 2017

Helena – The Montana Department of Revenue is mailing out 2017 personal property reporting forms to business owners this week. Business and industrial taxpayers have until March 1, 2017, to report their business equipment or personal property to the department. They’ll need to file even if there were no changes to their business equipment or if they closed or sold their business.

Businesses can submit their reporting form electronically through the department’s TransAction Portal (TAP) at They can also fill out the paper form they receive and mail or deliver it back to the department instead.

“We encourage businesses to use our online reporting system because it’s a benefit to business,” said Cynthia Monteau Moore, Administrator, Property Assessment Division. “The online system is free, easy to use, and saves time for businesses across the state that are trying to work efficiently.”

Whether a taxpayer filed electronically in 2016 or by paper, all of their reported business equipment for 2016 is prepopulated to the 2017 online reporting system.

Online reporting creates an electronic repository that lets businesses access submissions from previous years. Businesses can also use the sort and filter functions to quickly locate assets that need to be updated or deleted. Finally, online reporting eliminates the cost of postage for businesses and gives them confirmation that we’ve received the report.

Businesses need to report heavy equipment, manufacturing and mining equipment, farm and ranch equipment, oil and gas equipment, and miscellaneous equipment. For more information, visit or call toll free 1-866-859-2254 or, in Helena, 444-6900.

By Diane Larson

In days of yore, it may have been chestnuts roasting on an open fire that was a sure sign of the holiday season. Today, more times than not, it is the smell of those special seasonal treats baking in the kitchen that tell us Christmas is right around the corner.

Most households have their special traditions. Whatever those special treats are, you know the holidays are upon us when these smells permeate through the house. These foods become tradition and part of our experience of the holiday season. They comfort us and bring us joy. Part of that joy is being able to share them with others. We’ve compiled a few recipes from family that we’d like to share with you. All of these are very easy and very scrummy.

A wonderful gift that many receive during this time of year is a tin, bag or box full of someone’s hard work and family tradition. Those are always very welcoming gifts that we love to put out and share with our neighbors, family or any holiday visitor.

Last year we printed a recipe for caramel corn that gets made in our house several times over during the month of December. We are placing it here again because, this fall we have discovered a new way to make this delicious treat. It is caramel corn, but instead of being made with popped corn it is made with the puffy corn that you buy in a bag in the chips isle. It is caramel corn with a twist, so make both and compare.

First is the traditional caramel corn.

Caramel Corn

Pre-heat oven to 250°

Lay out wax paper on an open counter or table, enough to hold 4 quarts (a large roasting pan full) of caramel covered popped-corn.


1 cup of butter

2 cups of brown sugar, dark if you have it, but either works

½ cup corn syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 quarts popped corn

Prepare ahead, you’ll need them quickly when it is time for them

  1. Butter a large roasting pan. I like to use the largest disposable roasting pan I can find. It has to be large enough so that you can mix 4 quarts of popped corn
  2. Measure out 1 teaspoon vanilla, set aside
  3. Measure out 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, set aside
  4. Place the popped corn in the roasting pan and place it in the oven

(The vanilla and baking soda will be added to the mixture at the end of the cooking, and you have to add it quickly and while stirring. It works out much better if you have it ready on the counter when it is needed.)


In a medium saucepan over medium heat,

  1. Melt butter
  2. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup & salt
  3. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly
  4. Once it comes to a boil, let it continue to boil without stirring for 4 minutes
  5. Remove from heat
  6. Stir in soda and vanilla at the same time—very quickly
  7. Stir fast until the mixture color goes from a dark brown to a foamy light brown
  8. Open the oven door, retrieve the pan and place it on the counter or stove.
  9. Pour the caramel sauce over popped corn and mix it thoroughly.
  10. Place the pan back in the preheated oven @ 250° for 15 minutes, remove and stir. You will do this 3 more times, each at 15 minute intervals followed by removing the caramel from the oven and stirring and placing back in to the oven. This is done so the caramel can reach the highest level of surface area. I like to set the timer for this so I don’t forget, because of course I will if I don’t.
  11. Repeat the heating and stirring three more times for a total time frame of one hour of baking and stirring. At the end of the hour pour caramel corn on the waxed paper. Carefully separate the corn so it isn’t in big globs, (well unless you want big globs) and let cool.
  12. When the caramel corn is cool—enjoy!

Now for the twist….

Puffy caramel corn

1 cup brown sugar—dark or light depends on your particular flavor

½ cup of corn syrup

1 cup of butter

1 8 ounce bag of puffy corn

1 teaspoon of baking soda

Measure out one teaspoon of baking soda and set it aside. When you need this you will have to add it quickly and stir fast right away.

Do these three things ahead, you’ll need them quickly when it is time for them

  1. Pre heat the oven 250°
  2. Butter a large roasting pan; empty the bag of puffy corn into the roaster and place in the oven.
  3. Lay waxed paper on a counter, enough to hold the whole bag of puffy corn


  1. In a medium saucepan place the butter and brown sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook for 3 minutes without stirring
  2. Add the baking soda…stir quickly, the mixture will become foamy and a lighter caramel color and increase.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Remove pan of puffy corn from oven, pour caramel over the puffy corn and mix completely until all of the puffs are covered in caramel.
  5. Place the pan with caramel puffy corn back into the oven, set the timer for 15 minutes, after 15 minutes remove and stir then place back into the oven. Do this three more times.
  6. When done pour out onto the waxed paper, separate pieces and let cool
  7. Once it is all cooled place in a bowl and serve, or place in container for later.


                Terry Hoeckelberg of Worden, MT has been making her classic peanut-butter cups for about 35 years. It is one of those items that she gives to friends and family as gifts. Each year she receives a multitude of requests for them. Because, can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate? No you can’t.

 Peanut Butter Cups

Recipe from Terry Hoeckelberg

Mix together:

1 16 ounce, of peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup of powder sugar

If mixture is sticky add more powdered sugar. You will roll this mixture into balls so you want it to be a bit firm.

Refrigerate until mixture cools and can be handled, about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes take the mixture out and roll it into small balls, a melon baller works really well for this.

Melt 2 bags of chocolate chips. Terry says that in her experience the chips work much better than the bark. You can melt these on the stove on a low heat, in the microwave or in a double boiler, whichever you prefer. Once they are melted, cool for a few minutes, about ten, so the mixture is not too hot.

Then dip the balls into the chocolate. Terry just uses her fingers in this process, she says that there are many different items that she has heard that other people use, but this is easier for her. Place them on waxed paper to set, and then enjoy. Terry has been making these for about 35 years and they are a family favorite.

The next recipe from Terry is a Chocolate Truffle that she found about three years ago and just wanted to give it a try. It is a pretty easy one to make and so enjoyable that she has made it each year since.

Chocolate Truffles

Place in a medium saucepan place:

1 ½ cups heavy cream

3 cups of chocolate chips dark or mild, your preference

Cook on low heat and stirring constantly until all chocolate is melted and cream and chocolate is mixed together.

Pour into a square cake pan, refrigerate for one hour.

After one hour remove from fridge, and take your trusty melon baller (which is not just for melon anymore) and scoop it up and roll into balls and lay on waxed paper.

Mix some dry cocoa powder with powdered sugar in a small bowl.

Roll balls in mixture and cover completely.

Serve them to family and friends.

This one is on its way to becoming a tradition.

Have you had enough? Well we have just a couple more to share. These next two were provided by Kim Sue Hoeckelberg, also of Worden MT. Yes, of course they are sisters. The first one is a mock Butterfinger candy that she says is delicious. Kim said that she has been making them for about three years now. She saw the recipe and just really was intrigued by it and wanted to give it a try. After her first batch that she made she knew that it would be a recipe that would get made over and over again.

That first batch she made for the family only lasted about four hours. It is one of those treats that makes good gifts to give to friends and family anytime.

Mock Butterfinger Candy

By Kim Sue Hoeckelberg

Do Ahead:

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper


1 ½ cups of candy corn

2 cups of peanut butter + ¼ cup peanut butter

1 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips


  1. Place candy corn in a glass bowl (must be glass bowl, it is easier to mix and clean-up is easier)
  2. Melt the candy corn in the microwave at 30 second intervals (do not melt on the stove, it will not turn out.) This usually takes about two minutes. The mix will be liquid and creamy.


  1. 2 cups of peanut butter to the candy corn mixture, and stir right away and quickly
  2. Once it is all mixed spread it on the waxed paper lined cookie sheet.
  3. Let it cool at room temperature
  4. Once the candy corn & peanut butter is cooled, melt 1 bag of chocolate chips with ¼ cup peanut butter mix and spread it over the top.

When completely cooled slice and serve. Scrummy!



Chocolate Cherry Fudge

By Kim Sue Hoeckelberg

This recipe, she says, is another one that she found and said to herself, self, I’d like to try that.


½ block of chocolate bark

1 container of cherry frosting

  1. Melt chocolate bark
  2. Add frosting to chocolate bark
  3. Pour it into a square 9x9 pan, spread evenly.
  4. Let it cool, then set and enjoy!

Kim says that she has played with the flavors. She has used orange frosting with white bark. Key Lime frosting in almond. The combinations are only limited by your own imagination.

                These are just a few of the fun recipes that have been tried over the years. We wanted to share with you and hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.

Merry Christmas from