As someone said to me the other day, “The weather is so crappy in Montana during the winter that people don’t want to be inside in the summer.”

That explains the crowd at Downtown ToNight on Thursday, a happy crowd that was busy eating and dancing and getting massages and watching the kayakers on the Clark Fork of the Columbia River. Here’s an overview of the park, showing the band and the crowd.Beth Partin's photos, Missoula, Downtown ToNightAnd here’s the band and the food court, including Big Dipper Ice Cream (very popular), Taco Sano (good pineapple salsa on chicken tacos), Pita Pit, shave ice, and many others.Beth Partin's photos, Missoula attractions
I didn’t know what to think of the band at first, especially when they started doing cutesy dance moves. I would describe Locust Street Taxi as playing groovy rock, but their website goes a bit further, calling themselves “a band with multiple-genre disorder, and a past littered with drummers.”Locust Street Taxi, music that takes you places, Downtown ToNight Missoula The people in the crowd who were paying attention seemed to like them.

But there was so much else going on! Besides all that food to choose from, there were seated massages, which we waited too late to schedule. Families could let their kids loose in the play area near the bathrooms, while women in short dresses and high heels tried to look blasé for their dates. I got the impression that Downtown ToNight was the place to go on a first date. If the date isn’t going well, the music will drown out your date’s boring conversation, and if it does go well, you can get married and have kids and bring them to Thursday night concerts and remember when you could wear high heels.

I wanted Todd to videotape interviews with a Missoulian or two, but Todd pointed out that with the band playing and people talking and all the other ambient noise, the sound quality would be terrible. So we headed up the slope to the river trail to film the kayakers.

Turns out that tonight there was a competition, though that doesn’t happen every week. If you look closely at the man in blue trunks at the back of this DJ booth/VIP area, you’ll see he’s holding a mike. He was the emcee for the competition.Beth Partin's photos, Downtown ToNight, Missoula nigthlife, Missoula attractionsFive kayakers were testing the waves that night, not including the photographer, who had to kayak out to the rocks with his gear in a dry bag. Each man (I haven’t seen any women kayaking in these trick boats on the two nights I’ve watched them) would swing around from the rocks, paddle fiercely into the wave, and then start doing flips and turns. Beth Partin's photos, kayaking Clark Fork RiverI picked this photo because of … um … the contrast between the red helmet and the green on the boat. It had nothing to do with his muscles. eye candy, nice muscles, kayakers Clark Fork RiverThe only thing I didn’t enjoy about Downtown ToNight was looking at the trash cans. There were some receptacles for recycling cans and bottles, but they were in the food court. As I said over on Restoration Nation, Missoula is making a good-faith effort to recycle, but it has a ways to go.

In addition to the Thursday night concerts, Missoula also hosts concerts at lunch on Wednesdays. And if that doesn’t satisfy your need to get to Missoula’s cool downtown, then you can go to the farmers markets on Tuesday nights, Saturday mornings, and Sunday mornings (more on that in a later post).

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