Back in the 1960's, my dad and some other forward thinking folks, Dave Drum among them, sat down and discussed what my hometown needed. And what it needed was a gathering place. It needed a place for rodeos that wasn't the grandstand, a place for concerts that wasn't a theater. It needed a place for conventions, where they could have an exhibit hall during the day and arena style shows at night. Ice. It needed ice for hockey and shows like the Ice Capades. Mostly, it needed to be a focal point for gathering people together to share in performances and ideas.
They doodled out their ideas and sketched a building on a cocktail napkin, and from there, the Metra was born. This big, concrete monstrosity of a building became just what they imagined: a home for concerts, rodeos, motorcross, graduations, hockey games, indoor football, exhibitions, trade shows, auctions, and more.
The Metra is where I learned to love the smell of the ice before a hockey game. It's where I discovered fudgecicles. It's where I had my first mixed drink, a Shirley Temple, bought for me in the booster club bar after a Billings Big Horns game. It's where I met Andy Moog and got him to sign a jersey for me.
It's where I saw my first non-fair or family related concert, Leif Garrett. Don't judge, it was the 70s. Or was it the 80s? Over the years, I got to see The Beach Boys, Foreigner, Toto, John Davidson (see above, re: the 80s), Charlie Pride, Billy Joel and Kenny Rogers, and a few I probably forgot.
It's where I saw my first moto-cross and tractor pull. It's where I saw more rodeos than I can count.
It's where, when I was in high school, I learned that my dad was actually kind of cool when he, on a school night, said "let's go check out that band that's playing at the Metra." It was Heart and I got to see the majority of the show from the sound booth.
It's where I graduated from high school.
It's where I honored and celebrated my dad's life.
To the Metra staff, I cannot thank you enough. Bill, Robert, Ray, Rhoda, Brook, and all of the rest I can't begin to list by name, you all did so much to make a difficult day go smoothly. From arranging the seats, managing the guests, helping set up the catering, setting up the screen for the video, getting microphones for the speakers and the choir, to all of the little things we probably didn't even realize you did to make our day go off without a hitch, you did so much for my dad and for our family.
So much of my life and so many of my happiest memories are tied up with the Metra, that the very building has come to be one of my favorite sites when I'm on the plane making the approach into Billings. Seeing that colossus on the ridge tells me that I'm home. Thank you, Billings, for letting those guys realize their vision for a gathering place. And thank you for sharing in our celebration of Dad's life. He would have been delighted to see it take place in the building he was so excited to help build, in the city that he adored, with the people admired and loved.
From the bottom of my heart, and that of my mother and my brother, thank you for giving us a gathering place.