DEER LODGE — Santa is getting a little help this year from Tana, the Southwest Montana Christmas Elf, as she makes stops around the region at boutiques and breweries and other local attractions to help him get ready for Christmas.
"I guess she got the word that we have a lot of awesome places here across southwest Montana and she started shopping here for Santa," says Sarah Bolt, a photographer and videographer for the local tourism agency Southwest Montana.
Bolt is the official elf tracker and she’s found Tana the elf in lots of unique places over the last couple of years.
"So Tana goes all over the place; she goes to fabulous little stores like Montana Made," says Bolt.
And the elf stays at locally owned hotels, hits the hot springs and concerts and ski resorts, and sips locally made whiskey and beer.
But what’s it like to follow an elf around the nine counties spanning from Augusta to Dillon?
"It’s pretty difficult sometimes. She’s very small and it’s a very large region, but I manage to find her shopping around for Santa and um, sometimes getting into a little bit of trouble," says Bolt.
On this day, Tana could be found lounging in a Deer Lodge boutique featuring 50 artisans' work from across Montana.
"I was actually surprised. I opened the store and she was just there and I was surprised. But I bet she’ll get some good Montana-made items here for her basket," says Rachel Jenkins, owner of Montana Made & the Lilliepad Boutique located on the main strip in Deer Lodge.
"We have all kinds of attractions. We have great shopping—Montana-made products, and we want to remind people, get out, look around. We have all these great things right in our region. Enjoy!" says Sarah Bannon, the executive director of Southwest Montana.
You can follow Tana's adventures on Southwest Montana's website on the agency’s social media sites to collect clues to be entered in a drawing featuring items from the elf’s travels.