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Community group works to revitalize small Montana town

Community organization revitalizes small town of Winnett
Winnett ACES
winnett montana map
Posted at 11:10 AM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 13:20:58-04

WINNETT — With a population 188, Winnet is the seat of Petroleum County. The town is located about 52 miles east of Lewistown and 94 miles north of Billings. It is the seventh-least-populated county in the United States.

Surrounded by rolling hills of grassland grazed by cattle and run by descendants of homesteaders, this community is being brought back to life.

Winnett ACES is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is creating a desirable location for the next era of town residents.

It began with the relocation of the Odd Fellows building, which was moved about 100 yards west down Main Street.

“It's a really cool thing when we all get together and have a common goal, it seems like we can accomplish a lot and it's really fun. I mean, you're standing inside of something that is supposed to be torn down and, you know, it's going to be pretty cool. It's going to have an ice cream machine…and coffee,” said Brent Smith, a general coordinator with Winnett ACES at a recent community potluck meeting.

Tuesday night, the ACES invited residents and out-of-towners to a meeting explaining what the organization would be up to for the coming month. The meeting drew about 50 people all for the common goal of rebuilding the town they love.

“If businesses can grow on its own. Our own children didn't have this business, and we'd like it to be better than it was for them so that they would have things to do to keep them here. Not having to drive 50 miles to Lewistown,” said Diana Brady, a Winnett resident and committee member.

The Odd Fellows building is only one part of the big picture for this organization and community. It is hoped it will become either a coffee shop or ice cream parlor while utilizing the upstairs area for apartments that create more affordable housing to generate revenue for the town and county.

Winnett ACES

Discussed in the meeting was the team of youth conservationists who will be working closely with Winnett ACES to protect the grasslands that are vital to the planet’s health. Winnett ACES representatives explained that working with ranchers to properly graze in this region and aerate the land to keep this precious ecosystem healthy.

A solid percentage of the 50 in attendance were children. The future of the community is in the crosshairs for the younger generation, especially for Katie Lund, a mother of five.

“For instance, if this is a coffee shop or an ice cream shop, what kind of kid doesn't love those types of things, you know? And to have something in this little, tiny town is awesome and exciting,” she said.

The Winnett ACES and community that surrounds them have their work cut out for them. The goal at the end of the day is to bring more visitors and provide community gathering spaces for those who live in the area.

To learn more or get involved, click here to visit the website.

winnett montana map