Glacier Park International Airport

Visiting: Kalispell, Montana

The Stuck at the Airport adventure crew recently touched down in Kalispell, Montana for a quick visit to Glacier Park International Airport (FSA) and attractions in town.

The bear (above) greets arriving passengers in the airport bag claim area. And is a good reminder to visitors to pick up some bear spray before heading out into the woods.

Thank goodness one of the amenities at FCA airport is a place to rent bear spray.

Mansions, Museums, and Lots of Boots

Near downtown Kalispell, we stopped in for a guided tour of the 26-room Conrad Mansion Museum.

Built for the family of Charles E. Conrad, a Kalispell founding father, in 1895, the three-story home has been completely restored. Better yet, it is filled with an incredible amount of furniture, clothing, china, toys, sports equipment, books, guns, and other items that are original to the house.

In one of the guest rooms, we spotted this early handmade doll of Amelia Earhart with a great handmade toy airplane.

And in the pantry, we were delighted to find jars filled with old food.

In downtown Kalispell, the Hockaday Museum of Art is housed in a repurposed Carnegie Library building from 1904.

In addition to selections from its permanent collection, the museum’s current exhibition features paintings by Flathead Valley artist Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey, who is known for painting on silk.

The exhibition runs through June 17, 2023.

And over at the Northwest Montana History Museum, we learned a great deal about the natural, social, and political history of the region. And we made some new friends.

Of course, we also went shopping. And we were both delighted and overwhelmed to find more than 3000 pairs of boots and more than 1500 hats among the offerings of Western Outdoor.

“There Are No Bears In the Air”

The Stuck at the Airport team is visiting Kalispell, Montana this week. And we’re spending time at Glacier Park International Airport (FCA), which proudly bills itself as the Gateway to Northwestern Montana, Glacier National Park, and the Rocky Mountains.

One of the things we’ve learned is that Montana is bear country. And visitors spending time outdoors here are strongly encouraged to carry EPA-approved bear spray. And to learn how to use it.

But what about traveling with bear spray?

According to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) “What Can I Bring?” tool, “one 4 fl. oz. (118 ml) container of mace or pepper spray is permitted in checked baggage provided it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge.”

But TSA takes a stronger position on bear spray. It is not allowed in either carry-on or checked bags.

Glacier Park International Airport knows that many passengers forget that they have bear spray in their bags. And that many travelers don’t know about the ‘no bear spray on airplanes’ rule.

So in an effort to keep checkpoint lines from getting bogged down with TSA officers opening bags to remove packed bear spray, a bear spray amnesty box is provided.

“Good News! There are no bears in the air,” is the message greeting travelers at the airport security checkpoint. The box has a picture of a bear next to a pile of suitcases and informs travelers that “Animal repellent is not allowed in checked or carry-on baggage. For safety reasons, please leave your bear spray here.”

What If You Need Bear Spray?

Passengers who land at Glacier Park International Airport in need of bear spray for their local adventures will find bear spray available for rent at the Glacier Outfitters shop in the baggage claim area.

It’s an unusual, but very appropriate local service to offer at an airport. So we are declaring bear spray rental at Glacier Park International Airport the “Amenity Airport of the Week.”

Airport songs for safety

Like other airports around the country, Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) is keeping the facilities clean.

The airport is also using signs and floor stickers to encourage passengers to remember to keep their distance and wear face coverings.

Now, SJC is also getting even more creative with getting those messages out.

The airport has enlisted Santa Cruz-based singer/songwriter artist Nick Gallant to write and record three original songs to remind passengers and employees what they can and should do to keep things safe.

The ditties are catchy.

And you’ll have plenty of time to learn them by heart. Each song is being played throughout the Airport’s terminal buildings once an hour on a 20-minute cycle.

Give a listen:

FlySJC · SJC Go Somewhere Safely

Why play safety songs in an airport?

“By now our travelers and employees know what they need to do to keep each other safe while traveling,” said SJC Assistant Director of Aviation Judy Ross, “So the challenge for us was to find a unique, engaging way to remind everyone to stay vigilant.”

Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) isn’t the first to have safety songs to remind passengers to pay attention to the rules.

Way back in 2011, Montana’s Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) was running a video of a local band named The Singing Sons of Beaches to remind passengers of the rules and routines required at the TSA checkpoint.

The “bonus reminders” aren’t always songs.

Over the years McCarran International Airport Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas has enlisted celebrities to create instructional reminder videos as well.

A Montana airport’s fun checkpoint video

Next time you’re standing in line at an airport security checkpoint, look around to see if there’s a instructional video running to tell passengers how to prepare for the screening process.  If there is a video being shown, chances are it will be a yawner.

But as I discovered for this story on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin, there are ways to share this information that are lot more fun:

Cindi Martin was tired of seeing long lines at the security checkpoint at Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, Mont. And even though she’s the airport director, Martin felt her hands were tied. “I cannot tell TSA officers to work faster or change protocol to help streamline the process,” she said.

What she could do was change things outside the checkpoint. So she asked a popular local band that often performs parodies to put together a peppier version of the rather dry Transportation Security Administration video now shown to passengers at the checkpoint.

“We took the TSA video home. And, oh my gosh, it is the most boring sort of government video we’re all used to seeing,” said Steve Riddle, who performs with Nick Terhaar and Greg Devlin as the Singing Sons of Beaches.

The band began working on a song that included all the information in the TSA video. “Things like knives, liquids, scissors, belts and shoes off, etc.,” said Riddle. “We used it all. And we made it rhyme.”

And they made it funny, with a catchy beat.

Dressed in shorts and flowered shirts, band members sing instructions (“No guns or knives or pepper spray, no sharp pointy scissors on the flight today”) and are shown trying to take a shotgun, a six-shooter, a meat cleaver, a giant pair of clippers, a cartoon-style bomb and other forbidden items through the checkpoint. A TSA officer – a real one who was standing by when the airport terminal closed for filming – has a cameo as a finger-wagging screener.

“We are aware of this local video created by the airport and approve of the travel tips provided to prepare passengers for screening,” said TSA spokesperson Greg Soule.

The video now plays on a continuous loop at the airport, along with the original TSA video.

“I’m getting calls from people who are driving out to the airport, paying to park and going in just to watch the video,” said Riddle.

Glacier Park International Airport may have the most danceable checkpoint video, but it’s not the first to offer travelers something a bit different to look at.

In 2004 and 2005, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas worked with local partners to create a 13-part TSA-approved, pre-checkpoint video series that features Las Vegas performers offering checkpoint tips. Included in the series are Wayne Newton, Rita Rudner, Carrot Top, the Blue Man Group, an Elvis impersonator, clowns from Cirque du Soleil, and Wolfgang Puck. You can watch those videos here.