BUTTE, MT - Have you ever heard of the legendary amusement park that once dominated the Butte America community for almost 75 years?

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If you're from the area (or, heck, even from Montana), you've probably heard urban legends and passionate memories from the generations before, passing down their experiences from Butte's Columbia Gardens: a haven of fun, care-free recreation, nestled just north of the infamous Berkeley Pit. Some of you may even be old enough to have your own experiences with Montana's first and only amusement park.

An unknown artist's depiction of the Columbia Gardens. Credit: Wikipedia Public Domain
An unknown artist's depiction of the Columbia Gardens. Credit: Wikipedia Public Domain

The Columbia Gardens amusement park was opened in 1899 by one of the Copper Kings, Butte legend William C. Clark, who—after his death in 1925—lost ownership to the Anaconda Copper company. They maintained and operated the beloved amusement park until the park's closure in 1973 when the company lost most of its revenue sources. To really seal the deal, the park burned down shortly after due to an "overloaded power transformer", though power had been shut off weeks prior. Since then, the park has lived in infamy. I'm not here to fuel conspiracy theories, believe it or not (though, knowing Butte's history with fire and arson...never mind).

No, I'm here to share with you a beautiful tune, written by the prolific Walkin' Jim Stoltz and performed by the silky-smooth vocals of Mark and Kathy Tyers. The title? The Ballad of Willie and Millie, a song that tells the tale of two lovers meeting at the Columbia Gardens, falling in love, and living a long life together—all the while enjoying and experiencing the Columbia Gardens and, with it, the dancing to music from the bands, riding the rides, and seeing the joy emanating from everyone in town.

The song itself is absolutely gut-wrenching and astoundingly beautiful, sparking a charge of emotion and pang of sadness to anyone who listens, even if you'd never heard of the Gardens prior to the track. It does a remarkable job of painting a word picture of the Gardens and creates a sense of longing for not only the Gardens themselves, but the era of everyone going out and enjoying the warm summer nights, dancing the night away. I'm getting emotional just typing this!

Listen to the track below and feel the echoes of the past:

There's nothing quite like it, is there?

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