Top 10 Things That Made Bozeman Cool Back in the Day

Angie Ripple

Join us on a walk down memory lane as we remember Bozeman’s Good Old Days:

You Could Find A Parking Place Anywhere, Even At Bridger Bowl At 9 am
Back in the day, parking was literally not an issue anywhere in Bozeman, unless you happened to live on Main Street and needed to move your vehicle every two hours, or overnight. MSU even had free 30-minute parking. The Bridger Bowl lot ended at about G back in the day, and was rarely, if ever, full.

Widespread Panic at the Cat’s Paw
Yes, one of the biggest Jam Bands in North America played at Bozeman’s own Cat’s Paw in the 1990s. The Cat’s Paw hosted many big name entertainers back in the day. Ticket prices were in the $10-15 range for any and every touring band coming to town.

You Could Drive As Fast As You Wanted To (“Reasonable And Prudent”) And Have An Open Beer In Your Subaru
Really! Until May, 1999 you could drive at a reasonable and prudent speed on any Montana highway and not have a care in the world. A 75 mph speed limit on interstate highways was adopted after a December 1998 Montana Supreme Court ruling stuck down Montana’s unique “reasonable and prudent” speed limit, calling it “unconstitutionally vague.” Until October 1, 2005, you were legally allowed to have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, especially allowed for passengers. We really are the Wild West.

Horses Were Your Designated Driver
Back in the day, it was not uncommon for locals to ride their horse to the bar, leave it tied up outside, and jump on for a ride home. Twenty-twenty-one was a big year for horses in the local news. Rumor has it that there is a state law stating that if a student rides their horse to school, the principal is required to take care of said horse. Students at Three Forks High School tested this supposed law as recently as February, 2021 and the horses were well cared for by the staff for the day. In March 2021, a man was caught on surveillance video riding a horse through a Bozeman Town Pump store. Town Pump joked on social media that we should all leave our horses outside in the future.

The Mustache Mafia And Man Buns Hadn’t Arrived That Was License For A Bar Brawl
Bozeman was a true cow town until the late 90s. Cowboys far outweighed hippies, yuppies and then unknown hipsters. Carhartts, work boots and cowboy boots were worn by the actual working class. If you’d shown up at any downtown bar with an oversized mustache (or, much worse, a man bun), you would be in for a serious bar fight, and likely be shown the edge of town.

Bobcat Tickets Were $2, Because They Hadn’t Beat The Griz n Over 15 Years
In 1995, the Bobcats went 2-5 in the Big Sky Conference, a far cry from the winning records and playoff trips we’ve seen more recently. Our stadium looked more like Eastern Washington’s still does.

Hysterical Police Reports Featured On Jay Leno
Back in the day, Jay Leno was on television every night, often making fun of small town police reports with his Police Blotter bit. Bozeman made the list more than once with police reports like; “A man wanted to speak to an officer regarding laws about marrying cousins and family members. He said he is having trouble meeting women.” -- Aug. 8, 2012. The Bozeman Chronicle has published two books of police reports called “We Don’t Make This Stuff Up,” available for purchase at

Not Having To Reserve Camping Spots
Camping was an impromptu activity requiring little to no planning. These days, online reservations are required months in advance and first-come, first-serve sites are fewer and farther between. To curb these difficulties, the 2023 Montana Legislature made changes to create more opportunities for recreationists to, specifically, enjoy state parks. The previous six-month booking window was changed to three months, and the maximum stay changed from 14 consecutive nights to seven. The last change allows at least 20 percent of state parks’ campsites to be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

I Ski With The Moose
Every Friday was a good day way back when. KMMS The Moose radio gave the first 50 people to show up at their secret location a free lift ticket! Plus, they gave away gear up on the hill at both Bridger and Big Sky. This giveaway may or may not have ended due to unnamed locals staking out The Moose parking lot and following DJ Michelle Wolfe to the secret location. And, oh yeah, lift tickets in 1997 were $29/day at Bridger, and $47/day at Big Sky.

Tommy the Leprechaun
Until June 2003, Tommy the Leprechaun traveled Montana, calling himself a hobo, a tramp, and a traveling minister. Tommy spent a lot of time walking the streets of Bozeman looking to bring smiles to the faces he encountered. He saw it as his job to travel from town to town singing and entertaining people with a guitar, a pocket full of jokes, and a few magic tricks. If you got a “Fantasmagorical” out of him, you were lucky enough.

To say days gone by were the good old days may be cliché, but for many locals, it’s very true. I never really understood what all the old folks were referring to, but today it’s easy to look back with extra fondness on what we had now that it’s gone. The next time you begin to reminisce about Bozeman’s past try to take a friend down memory lane with you; it will be more enjoyable to remember together.  

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