2023 East Helena Downtown Christmas Stroll and
Arts and Crafts Show

Thursday, December 7, 2023
Main Street ~ 5:30 to 8:30

More information: Call
Jolene 406-461-6867 or
Stephanie 406-459-7544


* December 05, 2023 * ALERT *


The Public Works Department would like to inform residents of the City of East Helena that unusually cold winter temperatures can cause water lines to freeze. With a considerable amount of winter remaining, the City of East Helena is providing some tips to avoid frozen pipes.
Frozen water lines typically occur in areas such as crawl spaces, along the outside walls where unprotected plumbing tends to be more vulnerable to the elements, and areas of the home that are not heated.

Tips to avoid frozen pipes:
• Consider leaving a faucet running at the highest location in the house. This should be a steady stream about the size of a pencil lead or toothpick.
• Make sure water pipes in unheated parts of your home, including crawl spaces, are insulated.
• Seal all openings in the basement around the foundation, windows, and doors. Insulate all pipes in your basement that are near windows.
• Make sure you heat all rooms of your house that have plumbing fixtures. Water pipes in unheated rooms are subject to freezing and could cause extensive damage.
• Leave the cabinet doors open to allow the heat from the room to enter if you have pipes that are located on an outside wall.
• Don’t remove snow around your property if you don’t have to. It helps to insulate the ground
around your home and the water pipes there.

If you have a frozen pipe, call a professional plumber.
If you have any questions, please call the Public Works Director Kevin Ore at 406-459-3769


These photos were taken from the middle of the new passing lane on Valley Drive, between Canyon Ferry Road and Plant Road, which was constructed during the summer of 2023. This is a tremendous improvement to Valley Drive.


For years East Helena residents have complained that Valley Drive/Montana Ave. were no longer viable roads for current traffic needs. In the past 10 years Prickly Pear Junction has been doggedly pursuing all available sources for answers to when these roadways might be updated. As of summer 2023 we have some answers and some results! Construction crews have completely updated Valley Drive from Canyon Ferry Road to Plant Road with a new, third lane for turning. It’s beautiful (see photos above) and plans are in the works for doing the same thing to the rest of Valley Drive in the future. (See the artist rendering in the module below.) However, no dates are available. In addition to the road construction, East Helena crews have been busy fixing the many potholes around town. (See photos below.)  

All summer, 2023, East Helena road crews worked on fixing the myriad potholes around town.



Looking across Wylie Drive from the end of Main Street. This is the construction site for a new 26,000-square-foot Town Pump that includes a 22,500–square-foot convenience store and 3,500-square-foot Lucky Lil’s Casino. Town Pump will include 11 fuel pumps with 22 fueling stations and 4 RV dumps. Completion is scheduled for March/April 2024.  The $14.4 million project at Wylie Drive and Highway 12 will be one of the chain’s largest stores.

Just a sign of the times — our little town is growing up.

Valley Drive / Montana Ave. Future Reconstruction (Aerial View)

Many East Helena residents have asked us how Valley Drive/Montana Ave. would work as a “three-lane” road. This artist’s rendering shows that the third lane (middle “turning” lane) would begin at Canyon Ferry Road and would end and merge into two lanes at Lewis Street/Prickly Pear Elementery School. This model is not intended to represent a final plan but is fairly close to being an accurate model. (Click on the map to view full-screen!)

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Meet your Police Department: (Left to right)
Chris Kirkegaard, Police Officer
Bonnie Jones, Evidence Technician / Administrative Assistant
Trent DeBoo, Police Officer
Kirk Johnston, Police Officer
Ed Royce, Police Officer
Mike Sanders, Police Chief

Did you know PureView has two local pharmacies that offer FREE delivery of your prescriptions and other health product needs right to your door ? And you do not have to be a patient of PureView to enjoy this service! Just call our main pharmacy number at 406-500-2080 or visit our website at www.pureviewhealthcenter.org

Thank you East Helena for your continued support for PureView Health Center!

PureView Health Center
1930 9th Avenue
Helena, MT 59601

Call us at 406.457.0000

Montana Environmental Trust Group Website:

Call: 406.227.5750

East Helena Branch

16 East Main Street, East Helena
10 am to 6 pm Monday – Wednesday
10 am to 5 pm Thursday – Friday
10 am to 1 pm Saturday

Closed Sunday

(Click on these images to view full-size.)

East Helena Branch Library
November/December Happenings


Storytime: Every Wednesday at 10:30 AM. It’s a half hour of preschool age appropriate stories and activities. All ages welcome.
November 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and December 6, 13, 20, 27.

Matinee Movie in December: Saturday, December 16th at 11:00 AM. Movie TBD. Popcorn and soda provided.

All Ages:
Third Tuesday Board Games: November 21ˢᵗ and December 19ᵗʰ from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Library provides games or bring your own. Light refreshment provided.

Wizard Wednesdays: November 15ᵗʰ and December 20ᵗʰ from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. In November, learn how to download from library applications and listen to online audiobook. December TBD. One on one assistance. Bring your device!

Quarterly Craft Swap: November 27-29ᵗʰ drop off your new or gently used craft materials. November 30ᵗʰ to December 2ⁿᵈ shop for “new-to-you” craft materials. During East Helena Branch Library open hours.

East Helena Christmas Stroll: Thursday, December 7ᵗʰ, 5:30 to 8:30 PM. East Helena Branch Library will stay open late for the Stroll. No library services available. The Friends of the Library will have books and holiday items for sale. 2-3 additional vendors will be in the library.


Reading Circle: This book group will not meet in November or December. The last Friday of the month in January, the 26ᵗʰ, at 3:00 PM is the next meeting. The book for January will be available to borrow starting January 2ⁿᵈ, 2024. Matinee Movie in November: Thursday, the 30ᵗʰ at 3:00 PM. Movie TBD. Popcorn and soda available to enjoy while watching the movie.

Learning Circle: Holiday/Everyday Card Making on Thursday, December 14ᵗʰ, 5:00- 6:30 PM. Mary Lee Evans will lead a class on basic card making—just in time for the holidays! Supplies are provided by the library.

Library Hours are Monday through Wednesday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Thursday and Friday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Sunday Closed.

Located at 16 East Main Street.


Read stories from past editions of
Prickly Pear Junction!

Contact Us ~ Click Here!

View 8 more Panos: Click Here

Saint Chales Hall, Carroll College, Helena, Montana ~ September 8, 2002
All photos and panoramas by david george hill.


Help is right here!

Times are tough but nobody should go hungry or be left out in the cold! On this page are some resources to help you and your family:

Dept. of Public Health and Human Services: administers SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Call: 1.888.706.1535

Salvation ArmyEmergency food, clothing, shelter, and utility assistance. Call: 406.442.8244

God’s LoveProvides food, shelter, clothing, and any other basic necessities for transients and families. Call: 406.442.7000

LIEAP – Low Income Energy Assistance Program: pays part of winter energy bills for those eligible. Can also help in emergencies if your power is cut off for non payment. Call: 406.447.1625

Rocky Mountain Development Council: https://www.rmdc.net/

If you know a family in need,
please share this information with them.

East Helena Mobile Pantry Update

The East Helena Mobile Pantry is open with service Mondays and Thursdays. The Lewis Street Pantry in Helena is open for Choice Shopping and is open Monday through Friday. If you are in need of food support, please come see us. We have food for all who need it. There is no need to provide an ID – just let us know the number of people in your household.

Mobile Service:
50 Prickly Pear Avenue N.
East Helena, MT 59635
(406) 443-3663

Monday 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Thursday 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Helena Food Share is closed on the following holidays:
Thursday, Nov 23 – Thanksgiving
Monday, Dec 25 – Christmas
Monday, Jan 1 – New Year’s
Monday, Jan 15 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Monday, Feb 19 – President’s Day
Monday, May 27 – Memorial Day
Thursday, July 4 – Independence Day
Monday, Sept 2 – Labor Day

See helenafoodshare.org/get-help/locations-and-hours/
for schedule updates.


         In 1993, Gary Thomas bought a building on Main Street in downtown East Helena, Montana for a practical reason: it was the closest commercial space to his house that he could afford. His plan was to change the nature of his business from retail to mail-order and do away with most of his products to concentrate on making sheepskin slippers. It turned out to be a great decision because of something he didn’t initially expect – East Helena is a truly great place to run and operate a business. It’s a small town that should brag about itself more often than it does. Downtown may only be a couple of blocks long, but it has filled up with incredible business owners who are all in it for the long haul. It’s a quiet place in good country.

            There are several reasons for why East Helena works out so well for an independent business. The commercial real estate is reasonably priced yet still easily accessible to the nearby population of the Helena area. Bank access, postal service and City Hall are a few things that are just down the street. The primary element that makes East Helena such a great location is its abundance of amazing neighbors – both in the business community and residents of the town. One of those neighbors that we would like to single out is our incredible local Post Office. We are a mail-order business, and we ship out over 2,000 packages each year. The East Helena Post Office is a local partner that we could hardly do without. Everyone on staff really goes out of their way to streamline the process and get our goods into the postal stream as effortlessly as possible. We owe those folks a tremendous amount of gratitude.

Our Founding
         High Plains Sheepskin was started in the cold and windy basins of southern Wyoming (hence the name “High Plains”) in 1975. Gary’s first shop was in Laramie, WY. After nine years, he moved to Last Chance Gulch in Helena, MT. Then, in 1993, Gary moved one final time to our current location at 5 West Main Street (formally known as Prickly Pear Junction) in East Helena, MT. We are right across the street from Dave and Annie’s restaurant, Main Street Easts (best breakfast around!), and next door to Stacks Clothing CO. & Antiques. This is our factory, warehouse, shipping center and retail outlet all rolled into one.

         Prior to starting High Plains, Gary had several years of experience in the tanning and industrial sheepskin industry. In the tannery, he worked as a sheepskin finisher and grader. As an apprentice under an old school Czech craftsman, Gary made sheepskin paint rollers, industrial applicators, and saddle pads. His passion for doing what he loved led him to work for himself, building High Plains Sheepskin from the ground up. Gary employed many ambition and talented people throughout the years who helped him build and sell his slippers, mittens, and hats. Spencer Haire was his final trusted employee and worked alongside him until Gary made his last pair of slippers. Gary Thomas tragically passed away in August of 2019 leaving Spencer and his wife Casey Sasek to purchase High Plains and continue providing his beloved sheepskin slippers to tens of thousands of customers around the country. They make a good team. Spencer manages the shop and makes all of the products while Casey’s background in banking allows her to handle the books and marketing. In 2020, they welcomed their first son, Jackson, to the wonderful world of sheepskin slippers.

         The new management of High Plains has also hired their first employee, Trevor Held, who is an East Helena native and part of the first graduating class of East Helena High School. Go Vigilantes!

         High Plains Sheepskin has always been a small business. We work all year to make thousands of slippers, mittens, and other products that we then ship to all 50 states, Canada and overseas. We enjoy what we do and love being a part of East Helena’s small but growing community. 

CLICK HERE to see Duke’s crew in action!

J4 Automotive
Visit J4 Automotive Website

Kit and Vi Johnson started J4 Automotive over 22 years ago in 1994 with an SBA loan, some help from family members and a lot of prayers. Fast forward to today and we find the shop doing close to 1 million dollars in gross sales and still family owned and operated. The second generation of Johnson’s are now working in the business, with Kit and Vi’s daughter Nikita and her husband Chris carrying on the strong tradition of outstanding automotive repair and service and giving back to our community. The third generation of Johnson’s (the grand kids shown sitting with Viola) are growing up in the shop just like their mothers did and will most likely continue the family tradition well into the future.

J4 Automotive’s mission statement stresses community service, which they do a lot of. The yellow veterans ribbons, the kids activity tent in the Christmas stroll, sponsor of the spring school clean-up, the Halloween movie in the park and Frite-night are but some of the events Kit and Vi and the J4 Crew organize and participate in. Their experienced staff of seven, including three Master Mechanics, fix all makes and models of vehicles and are the recipient of many awards. The National Technician of the Year, and the Helena Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year are just a few examples of their commitment to excellence.

J4 Automotive is a Better Business Bureau A+ rated member, AAA Top Shop and NAPA AutoCare center that enjoys a 5 star Google and Yelp rating. Give them a call next time you need advice or maintenance and repair on your vehicle and use their convenient pick-up service while you work! 227-8622 or make an appointment on line at j4 Automotive.com.

Our helpful service advisors, Kit Johnson, Chris Pratt and Ryan Pellerini will take care of you and your auto needs!

Contact Us ~ Click Here!

Sales of my artwork and art books on the ETSY Art/Craft website help support
Prickly Pear Junction “CLOUD”.
Click HERE to visit my ETSY Shop!

contact Prickly Pear Junction (Click)> david@davidhill.tv  ~  phone  ~  406.431.6026