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Sunset magazine selects Montana's Philipsburg as finalist in magazine's first Sunset Travel Awards

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February 24, 2015View for printing

Philipsburg, Montana http://www.philipsburgmt.comchosen as a Best Reinvention Town in Sunset awards.

Sunset magazine has selected the town of Philipsburg, Montana, as a finalist in its first-ever Sunset Travel Awards program. Philipsburg, located in Southwest Montana next to the Pintler Mountains in the scenic Flint Creek Valley, was chosen as a finalist in the magazine's Best Municipal Makeover/Reinvention Town award category, alongside the much larger urban centers of Alameda, Sacramento and Ventura, California, and Reno, Nevada.

The nationally known magazine introduced the Sunset Travel Awards to honor excellence and innovation in the tourism industry across the 13 Western states, British Columbia and Alberta. The awards recognize achievement in 20 categories, including lodging, dining, cultural tourism, outdoor adventure, environmental stewardship and municipal reinvention. Winners in each Travel Awards category will be selected by Sunset editors and the contest Advisory Board, and will be announced in Sunset's June 2015 issue. The full list of award categories and finalists can be found at

"Philipsburg's transformation has happened out of the community members' hard work and their vision of what their town could be," said Sarah Bannon, executive director of Southwest Montana Tourism Region. "We're thrilled that Philipsburg is being recognized by one of the most esteemed travel publications for its efforts to make the community a destination where tourists flock and where families want to grow roots."

Philipsburg's reinvention started in the early 1990s when a few community members recognized its potential as a tourist destination. Founded in 1867 by silver miners, Philipsburg's early history was a story of boom and bust as local mines opened and closed and mineral markets spiked and crashed. Ranching and logging had carried the community through down times, but by the early 1990s the community pulse was fading and many businesses were failing.

At that time a handful of individuals began investing time in restoring Philipsburg's once striking 19th-century Victorian buildings. New businesses, like the Sapphire Gallery and Sweet Palace, set up shop in hopes that tourist traffic along the Pintler Scenic Loop (state Highway 1) and nearby Skalkaho Pass would turn into town. And they did. The restoration caught on and soon several other businesses were painting their facades and new businesses were setting up shop.

"What's amazing is that the townspeople did it all themselves," said Shirley Beck, co-proprietor of the Sapphire Gallery and Sweet Palace. "Our reinvention simply happened with vision and hard work, without an elaborate Main Street project or the assistance of federal or state funds."

Jerry Sullivan, president of the local bank that helped finance and make possible many local endeavors, credits the town's organic revitalization with the community embracing what had come before -- looking to the past for how to embrace the future.

With a population today of just over 800, Philipsburg's historic main street is lined with coffee shops, real estate agencies, B&Bs, restored hotels, gift stores, gem mining operations, an antique store, a florist, an old-time soda fountain, a steakhouse, a barbecue restaurant and the new Philipsburg Brewery.

And its efforts continue. The Philipsburg Rotary Club, which created an NHL-sized outdoor rink for the community and visitors, is now working to ensure that younger generations discover this Southwest Montana community. Through its website and other efforts, Rotary aims to attract freelance professionals, telecommuters and their families to live and work in Philipsburg. The club also has plans to build on nearby recreational opportunities, including Discovery Ski Area's new mountain bike park, and create a bike skills park and trail system.

"Philipsburg is about 15 years of small victories," said Jim Jenner, a local Rotarian, filmmaker and writer who lives in Philipsburg. "When one thing worked, we tried something else."

Learn more about Philipsburg at and about the vast region of Southwest Montana at

Reader Comments:

This is great! Makes me so proud to be "Pburger". So happy for my little hometown!

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