Voted Rodeo of the Year in 2017 and Most Improved Rodeo by the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit from 2009 to 2011, the Last Chance Stampede and Fair is host to thousands of visitors every year. Whether you come just for the rodeo, the carnival rides and games, or the concerts, you won’t be disappointed by what you see and hear. You may also be coming for the 4-H exhibits and animals, which bring thousands of people from all over the world every year.
Starting on Wednesday with the Kids Stick Horse Rodeo, the park might open with music, fireworks, and carnival food and fun. The kid’s parade may roll down the street on Thursday with Military Appreciation Night and the rodeo that evening. Friday is usually “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night, so make sure you bring some pink to wear for that day. Saturday begins with the big Stampede Parade, and then the livestock sale gets underway.
The Exhibit Hall is 36,000 square feet and is a great place to cool off from the July heat for a while. Walk around and check out the competitive entries from food to animals to quilts. There is something for everyone here. Then you can go out and let the kids play with the animals in the petting zoo at the Kiddie Carnival before heading to the grandstands to watch the rodeo.
Tickets to get into the Last Chance Stampede are super cheap and have often been less than $5 per person. However, if you want to stay for the rodeo or one of the concerts, it will cost more. Rodeo tickets usually run about $20 to $30 while concert tickets are closer to $50 and will vary depending on the artist.
In mid-eastern Montana, only 2.4 miles from the heart of Helena, just 10 miles from the Helena National Forest, and about two hours from Great Falls, the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds is home to the Last Chance Stampede and Fair.
You can take Interstate 15 if you are coming from the north or south, and if you are coming from the east or west, US-12 may be your best bet to get to the fairgrounds. Interstate 90 may also be on your route to Montana.
Parking your RV tricky at times if you choose a larger rig or are new to maneuvering a bigger camper. However, the fairgrounds have plenty of parking and they even have an overflow parking lot so you should not have issues finding a spot for your rig no matter how big it is.
Your best choice for public transportation is the Lewis & Clark County's Capital Transit, which can get you from anywhere in the general Helena area to Henderson Street, which is just a few blocks from the fairgrounds. You could also take a taxi or use a rideshare app that will take you directly to the fairgrounds.
Camping here is very limited, with only 22 campsites. Each of the sites has electricity hookups. They also offer water fill-up in the parking lot for your RV but do not have a dumpsite. Pets are welcome but must remain on a leash or restrained. If you plan on camping here during the event, you will need to reserve your spot way in advance.
Head over to Gallatin National Forest, where you can find Colter Campground. They have 18 spacious campsites open from July until September that can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 66 feet in length. Amenities include food storage boxes, tables, campfire grills, toilets, and water spigots. Right off of Beartooth Scenic Byway, you can enjoy a scenic drive from the fairgrounds to the campground just three miles away. Within a 15-mile radius, you can find several other campgrounds offering sites that range from primitive to full hookups.
The main arena is at the north end of the fairgrounds in between the parking lots. You’ll be able to walk from the food vendors, commercial vendors, and other exhibits nearby with no problem. Everything is pretty close together. The 4-H exhibits and restrooms are nearby, as well. It is not a far walk to get to the carnival and children’s petting zoo as well as the barn and dog arena. All in all, the place is easy to get around. If you have mobility issues, the fairgrounds can help provide assistance.
T-shirts, tank tops, jeans, and shorts are typical attire at the Last Chance Stampede and Fair. Of course, it is summertime, so you want to dress in light, breathable fabrics. You’ll see many in the crowd wearing cowboy boots because, well, it’s a rodeo. But that does not mean you have to wear boots. Wear shoes that are comfortable so you can enjoy walking around and looking at all the animal and other exhibits as well as the rides and carnival games.
You may want to pack a day bag for the Last Chance Stampede and Fair, especially if you are parking your RV somewhere else and traveling to the fairgrounds for the event. Check with the fairgrounds for items that are allowed, but they typically frown on weapons, fireworks, drugs, booze, and drones, so don’t bring them. A small backpack with a water bottle, sunblock, and other personal items is usually allowed.
If you are planning to stay and enjoy the whole weekend’s activities at the Last Chance Stampede and Fair, you’ll want to bring some important items that will help you stay more comfortable. Sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat are all essential to help protect you from the hot summer sun. You will definitely need bug spray and maybe some citronella candles at your campsite to protect you from insects that come out after dark.
If you are one of the lucky few who are able to snag a campsite at the fairgrounds, you can cook inside your RV or camper with the electricity hookups, or you can use a BBQ pit or camp stove outside the RV. Your options for cooking at the other campgrounds will vary, and you may want to be prepared to dry camp in case amenities are not available. If you need to pick up something you forgot, there are several stores in and around Helena.
You’re going to love your choices for food around the Last Chance Stampede and Fair because the community has everything from tacos to tilapia and burgers to burritos. If you want to sit down in a nice restaurant for dinner, there are several including a Cajun-creole place, Italian dining, Thai Cuisine, and a Bistro with everything you can imagine. Of course, there are the typical fast food and pizza joints as well. And it’s all less than five miles away in Helena.
Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds in Helena pride themselves on having delicious food, snacks, and drinks to fit everyone’s tastes. Along with the usual fair food like funnel cake, corn dogs, and burgers, you’ll find yummy ice cream, nachos, and even pizza. The park has over 20 food vendors along with 50+ commercial vendors displaying their newest wares.
Guests don’t have to worry about security at the Last Chance Stampede and Fair. They take your well-being very seriously, and they will go out of their way to make sure everyone stays safe while still having a fantastic time. Don’t forget; no drugs, fireworks, or weapons are allowed and definitely no fighting. The sheriff’s office of security is located nearby the Children’s Carnival Area off Silsby Street.
The beautiful mountains in Helena, Montana will keep you cool in July as the temps barely reach over 80 degrees. In fact, the average high in July is 71 to 82, and the low is 52 to 54 degrees. You cannot beat those temperatures in the summer. Of course, it’s best to check the forecast before packing for your trip so you can customize the items you take.
It’s a stampede and rodeo, so of course, someone is likely to get a scrape or two. Hopefully, not the crowd, though. If you do need medical attention, you can request help at the fairgrounds. They do have a first aid station near the commercial vendors' area, but if you want to make the drive yourself, it is not a long trek. The urgent care hospital is less than two miles away on Broadway if you need medical assistance while you are visiting the Last Chance Stampede and Fair.