Getting in the Business of Fun
The Flathead Valley countryside is more than just “scenic.” As far as your eyes can see, it’s sprawling green valley and rich farmland, flanked by mountains and interspersed by rivers and lakes. This is the Montana artists paint, and writers describe—green land, expansive and dramatic blue skies, and undeniably beautiful. And nestled within this breathtaking valley countryside is a large barn, surrounded by open vistas of farmland, wilderness, and snow-capped mountains in the distance.
"This was a dream I obsessed about in the middle of the night."
From above, the barn looks like any other. But when you get closer, you don’t see livestock, produce, or grain. Instead, you start seeing color and movement… and hearing the laughter of children at play.
The Holt Stage Hideaway is a play center and special events venue. And for owner Laurie Mason, it’s a dream come true.
“This is my barn,” says Laurie. “This was a dream I obsessed about in the middle of the night. I wanted to offer this community a place where parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles could bring their kids, sit and relax, and just sit and watch their kids play. And then—crazy enough—in the summertime I open it up to weddings. It’s crazy, but it’s doable.”
As the play center, the spacious barn is similar to an indoor playground (although during the warm months, it also offers outdoor activities as well). A colorful interlocking foam floor ensures a safe landing, and large inflatable bouncy houses stand out, interspersed by interactive toys and activities. Of course, “bouncy houses” is somewhat of an understatement. Think more “bouncy houses but also enormous bouncy inflatable slides and a giant obstacle course that’s larger than some studio apartments.” There’s comfortable seating for parents to hang out, chat, or simply take a breather while their kids tear around the venue. Kids seem to be having the time of their lives in this bright space.
“There’s just joy all around.”
But the venue isn’t just for children. The barn is almost 4,000 square feet of space, sitting on fifteen generous acres of gorgeous land. As a rustic wedding location, there are no toys to be seen, no inflatable bouncy anything. And certainly no bright foam floor. Instead, the venue is transformed, the soaring wood ceiling with wooden rafters draped with café lights. It features glossy floors, tables, a bar, banquet, enormous retractable door that overlooks the panoramic valley and mountains. And outside, an octagonal wooden archway surrounded by gardens, offering a breathtaking backdrop for a wedding ceremony.
Laurie’s no stranger to stranger to the business of fun. Her parents owned Soledad Sands Park in Acton, California, and while she was growing up, Laurie spent time playing and working in the enormous 48-acre amusement park in the desert. And with the Holt Stage Hideaway event center, that love for fun, family, and recreational space has certainly stayed in the family
Which might just be one of the many reasons Whitefish Credit Union worked with Laurie to create the space. “At first they looked at me like, ‘OK, a barn filled with toys, maybe some weddings,’ and they saw some potential and believed in the dream.” And now, with the success of the business, that dream is a reality.
And for Laurie, there’s no small amount of satisfaction to be had knowing that she’s doing something she loves that also offers joy and happiness to her community.
And when she’s not hosting gaggles of children for fun playtime or private parties or hosting a gorgeous rustic wedding? Well, that’s when Laurie packs up her fun and takes it with her. Along with her inflatable bouncy attractions, Laurie also offers mobile mini golf. And with the help of her family and some of her daughter’s friends (who she joking refers to as her “carnie team”), Laurie takes the fun on the road. “I go to different events and set up a whole kids’ ‘zone.’”
These kids’ zones are a coveted attraction at local events, and today she’s setting up shop at a large rodeo event in the community.
“Everybody’s dressed up, and kids are excited—it’s just very down-home America. And I love that. I wish we could go back to simpler times like that.”
“The rodeo attracts [people] from all over the world,” she says. “It’s a huge, professional rodeo. These men and women out there, I mean, they’re literally risking their lives. Everybody’s dressed up, and kids are excited—it’s just very down-home America. And I love that. I wish we could go back to simpler times like that.”
For that day, among the events and excitement of the rodeo, the attractions, and the crowds of happy, excited people, life does seem to be that magic of a simpler time. Children play mini-golf or play while their parents cheer and support the riders, barrel racers, and ropers. There’s a sense of community, of that special moment in time when life just seems almost perfect. And when the sunset fades into the deep blues of dusk, the crew packs up the fun, the bouncy houses, and the mobile mini golf.
It’s the perfect end to a tiring but satisfying day. But tomorrow is back to the barn and another day of “business as usual.” And you wonder just how much energy Laurie has stored behind that easy smile and whether she might just be able to rope the mountains in the distance in her spare time.
“It’s emotional when you get done doing it. You’re exhausted,” she admits. “But it’s fun. There’s a definite sense of success and accomplishment, and pride that you provided a good service to the community.”
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