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Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce

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In the 1800s, families from the Netherlands moved to Gallatin Valley to grow barley for malters. They named the little town Manhattan in honor of the group of New York City investors operating the Manhattan Malting Company. The town also celebrated each year with Manhattan Day. This tightly knit society continues to flourish today.

By 1898, Manhattan had become quite important to Montana’s Gallatin Valley, with about 150 inhabitants and a school enrollment of 75. There were two hotels, a general store, one meat market, two blacksmith shops, and one saloon. Once a thriving town between the late 1800s and early 1900s, Manhattan had exploded under the success of the Manhattan Malting Co.

With the slump of the early 1970s, the community suffered. Born from a need to help revive the town, Manhattan Days grew into what is now the Annual Potato Festival. At that time, Manhattan was a little over 988 residents, and ready for a centennial celebration. The centennial celebration helped ignite the town again, which led to Manhattan Days, eventually morphing into the Potato Festival. “What better way to celebrate the heritage of the town than by labeling the annual celebration “The Potato Festival,” in honor of the many seed potato farmers who helped establish the town and surrounding area.

Throughout its 145-year history, Manhattan has been an important center for commerce and trade, and through all its ups and downs, the business community has been at the helm of the town's prosperity.” The first Potato Festival was held in 1987 and saw 400-500 visitors. In 2018, upwards of 4,000 visitors attended the festival. Today, Manhattan's most productive industries center on seed potatoes, dairy and wheat farms, commercial beef, and registered cattle. In addition, Manhattan is a host to woodcarvers, artisans, and antique dealers.

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A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Manhattan

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