best small towns in Montana

Exploring The Best Small Towns In Montana: Charming Gems To Discover

Best Small Towns In Montana

Embarking on a quest to find the quintessential small town in Montana might seem like quite the challenge. Trust us, we’ve walked that path ourselves. But after some thorough research and a few adventures of our own, we’ve managed to uncover 20 of Montana’s true hidden gems.

This guide is your ticket to exploring these quaint locales—packed with insights into fun activities, the local atmosphere, and essential tips for making your visit truly memorable.

Who’s ready to dive in?.

Key Takeaways

  • Montana’s small towns are filled with unique activities, from exploring historic ghost towns like Virginia City and Nevada City to enjoying outdoor adventures in places such as the Sapphire Mountains and the Gallatin National Forest.
  • Each town has its own charm and history, offering visitors a mix of cultural experiences, scenic beauty, and local hospitality. Whether it’s the mining heritage of Butte or the tranquil beauty of Choteau at the foot of the Rocky Mountain Front, there’s something for everyone.
  • Annual events in these towns, like Sweet Grass Fest in Big Timber or rodeos in West Yellowstone, bring communities together and offer a taste of local culture and spirit.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts can find numerous activities across these towns including hiking, fishing on Lake Koocanusa, horseback riding through Plains, and skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
  • The stunning natural landscapes surrounding each town provide countless opportunities for exploration whether by biking along riverside trails or wildlife spotting in national forests.

20 Best Small Towns in Montana to Visit

A couple sits on a bench in a picturesque park surrounded by colorful fall foliage.

Explore Anaconda, Big Sky, Butte, Choteau, Ennis, and more small towns in Montana for a unique experience. Each town offers its own charm and activities to discover.


Anaconda sits like a hidden jewel in Montana’s vast landscape, inviting those who seek the tranquility of small-town life mixed with rich history. This town is not just any ordinary place; it’s home to the Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park, a site that reminds visitors of its industrial past.

We find ourselves drawn to its unique blend of outdoor beauty and historical depth.

Hiking trails around Anaconda offer breathtaking views, perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. The town’s close proximity to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest means endless exploration opportunities.

Meanwhile, history buffs revel in Anaconda’s story, from its copper-smelting days to its current charm. It’s a spot where you can truly immerse yourself in Montana’s rugged beauty while stepping back into a fascinating part of America’s industrial age.

Big Sky

Big Sky is a must-visit for anyone looking to dive into Montana’s small town charm. It’s nestled high in the Rockies, offering breathtaking views and an abundance of outdoor activities.

The area is renowned for Big Sky Resort, where skiers and snowboarders find paradise on its vast slopes. Summers are just as thrilling with hiking, fly fishing in the Gallatin River, and exploring Yellowstone National Park only a short drive away.

This town captures the essence of what makes Montana special – stunning landscapes, friendly folks, and endless adventure. Shopping here feels personal; local shops offer unique finds from handmade crafts to outdoor gear tailored for exploration in Big Sky country.

Dining out brings a taste of the region with menus filled with locally sourced ingredients. Above all, visiting Big Sky means immersing yourself in nature’s grandeur while enjoying the cozy comfort of small-town hospitality.

Big Timber

Big Timber is a quiet town that sits snugly between the Yellowstone and Boulder rivers. It’s the perfect place for those who love outdoor recreation. Here, you can fish in crystal-clear waters or hike through stunning landscapes.

The town itself has a charming small-town vibe, with friendly folks and local shops that invite you in to explore.

In Big Timber, history comes alive at places like the Crazy Mountain Museum. You get to learn about Montana’s past, including its Native American heritage and pioneer days. The annual Sweet Grass Fest brings everyone together for music, food, and fun—a true taste of community spirit under Montana’s big sky.


Nestled in the heart of Montana, Butte is a historic small town renowned for its rich mining heritage. Once known as “the richest hill on earth”, it’s steeped in history and boasts a distinct architectural charm that reflects its booming past.

The town offers unique cultural experiences, from exploring underground mine tours to visiting the World Museum of Mining and the old-time saloons. With an array of outdoor activities like hiking and fishing in the surrounding natural beauty, Butte provides a perfect blend of history and adventure for those seeking an enriching small-town experience.


Nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountain Front, Choteau is a charming small town in Montana, offering a tranquil retreat for those seeking untouched natural beauty and friendly communities.

With fewer than 2,000 residents, this picturesque town provides an authentic Montana experience without the crowds. Known for its stunning mountain scenery and outdoor activities, Choteau is an ideal destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The nearby Lewis and Clark National Forest, Teton River, and Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area offer ample opportunities for hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and wildlife photography.


Ennis, situated in Montana’s beautiful Madison Valley, offers a tranquil and picturesque small-town experience. This charming gem is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery and is known for its excellent fly fishing opportunities along the Madison River.

Visitors can explore the quaint downtown area with its unique shops and local businesses while taking in the friendly community vibes. Ennis also hosts an array of annual events that showcase the town’s vibrant culture and heritage, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a peaceful retreat with a touch of local charm.

Fort Benton

Fort Benton is a charming small town in Montana, situated on the banks of the Missouri River. With its rich history as a frontier trading post, it offers a unique glimpse into the state’s past.

Visitors can explore Old Fort Benton, which was once a vital hub for fur traders and steamboats traveling along the river. The town also boasts picturesque views of limestone cliffs rising above the river and is home to annual events like Heritage Days, showcasing its vibrant cultural heritage.

Fort Benton presents an opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts too, with activities like fishing and floating on the Missouri River available. This peaceful town has maintained much of its historic architecture and friendly community ambiance, making it an ideal stop for those seeking a quieter yet enriching Montana experience.


Glendive, a picturesque town in Montana, offers a peaceful retreat for nature enthusiasts. Situated along the Yellowstone River, this small town boasts stunning views and outdoor activities aplenty.

The Makoshika State Park, with its unique rock formations and dinosaur fossils, is a must-visit for history buffs and hikers alike. Visitors can also explore the Frontier Gateway Museum to delve into Glendive’s rich past as a gateway to the Old West.

For those seeking tranquility and natural beauty, Glendive provides an ideal escape.


Hamilton sits in Montana’s picturesque Bitterroot Valley, offering a serene escape for history enthusiasts and nature lovers. The town is framed by the stunning Bitterroot Mountains, providing a backdrop for outdoor adventures such as hiking and fishing.

Stepping into Hamilton reveals charming local shops, unique architecture, and welcoming communities – perfect for leisurely strolls and discovering hidden treasures. The region’s rich history also includes landmarks like the historic Daly Mansion and Lake Como, making it an ideal destination to soak up Montana’s culture while being surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.


Lewistown, nestled in the heart of Montana, captivates with its small-town charm and beautiful landscapes. With its close proximity to natural wonders like the Judith Mountains and Ackley Lake State Park, outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife spotting.

The town’s historic Main Street invites visitors to explore local shops and soak up the friendly community vibe. As the geographical center of Montana, Lewistown serves as a gateway to authentic experiences in Big Sky Country.

Lewistown boasts an array of cultural attractions such as the Central Montana Museum and Art Center that offer insights into the area’s history and artistic heritage. Visitors can also immerse themselves in the cowboy culture at events like the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering.


Nestled along the Yellowstone River, Livingston boasts stunning mountain views and small-town charm. Known for its rich history and vibrant arts scene, this Montana gem offers something for everyone.

As visitors stroll through downtown, they can explore art galleries, boutique shops, and local eateries.. The annual Summerfest draws crowds with live music and art displays while bringing a lively atmosphere to this quaint town.

For outdoor enthusiasts, opportunities abound with fishing in the nearby Yellowstone River or exploring the hiking trails around Paradise Valley. History buffs will find delight in the Depot Museum showcasing Livingston’s railroad heritage.


Nestled in the sapphire mountains, Philipsburg is a charming small town offering a glimpse of Montana’s rich history and picturesque landscapes. Visitors can explore the historic downtown area, home to quaint shops and local businesses, while also discovering the region’s mining heritage at the Granite County Museum.

Don’t miss out on outdoor adventures such as hiking or fishing near Georgetown Lake and enjoying local arts and crafts at The Sweet Palace. Venture to Philipsburg for a delightful mix of history, nature, and small-town charm.

In addition to its historical allure, Philipsburg provides access to nearby attractions like Discovery Ski Area—a magnet for winter sports enthusiasts—and scenic routes like Skalkaho Pass that offer breathtaking mountain views.


Nestled on the southern shore of Flathead Lake, Polson offers a serene retreat with stunning lake views and access to outdoor adventures. Home to the Flathead Indian Reservation, visitors can explore tribal history at the Ninepipes Museum and witness traditional dance performances at the annual Arlee Powwow.

The town also hosts lively events such as the Cherry Festival, showcasing local produce and crafts.

Polson’s vibrant arts scene thrives through galleries and creative spaces like Miracle of America Museum. Exploring Kerr Dam’s impressive engineering marvel or indulging in water sports on the expansive Flathead Lake are just a few reasons why Polson is a must-visit gem in Montana.

Red Lodge

Nestled at the base of the Beartooth Mountains, Red Lodge beckons with its charming small-town allure. This town is a gateway to outdoor adventures, offering access to the breathtaking Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and the iconic Beartooth Highway.

As visitors explore local shops and businesses, they can soak in Red Lodge’s rustic charm and unique architecture. The town also hosts annual events like the Home of Champions Rodeo, adding a touch of excitement to its friendly community atmosphere.

With its proximity to Yellowstone National Park and abundant recreational opportunities, Red Lodge presents an ideal destination for those seeking an authentic Montana experience. Whether it’s exploring nearby trails or embracing the welcoming ambiance of this small town, Red Lodge promises a delightful blend of natural beauty and genuine hospitality for travelers seeking off-the-beaten-path experiences.


Sidney, Montana is a charming small town known for its friendly community and rich history. This town offers a glimpse into the region’s past with attractions like the MonDak Heritage Center and Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site.

Visitors can also explore the beautiful natural surroundings, including fishing at Lake Sakakawea or hiking at nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park. With its welcoming atmosphere and unique blend of history and outdoor activities, Sidney is an ideal destination for those seeking a quieter and more authentic Montana experience.

Montana sapphire mining has long been a significant part of Sidney’s heritage, making it an intriguing stop for those interested in gemstones. In addition to its historical significance, Sidney provides access to stunning landscapes such as Yellowstone River Valley and Plentywood area that are waiting to be explored.


Stevensville, nestled in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, offers a tranquil escape for those seeking small-town charm. With its rich history and stunning natural surroundings, it’s a must-visit for anyone exploring Montana.

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge nearby provides the perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature, while the historic St. Mary’s Mission offers insight into the area’s past.

As you stroll through Stevensville’s streets, take in the unique architecture and friendly community vibes that make this town so inviting.

Surround yourself with rustic charm as you explore local shops and businesses or embark on outdoor adventures along the scenic riverbanks of Clark Fork River or Bitterroot River. Visitors looking for a completely different experience can visit Fort Owen State Park to delve into early Montana history.

Thompson Falls

Thompson Falls is nestled in the scenic Clark Fork Valley, offering a tranquil retreat for nature lovers. The town boasts the magnificent Thompson Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in Montana, drawing visitors with its awe-inspiring beauty and peaceful atmosphere.

Surrounded by dense forests and rugged mountains, it’s an ideal destination for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Additionally, the Old Jail Museum provides insight into Thompson Falls’ history, while nearby attractions such as Flathead National Forest offer opportunities for outdoor adventures.

Thompson Falls perfectly encapsulates the charm of small-town Montana with its friendly community and picturesque surroundings. The laid-back vibe and stunning natural landscapes make it an appealing destination for those seeking a quieter getaway amid Montana’s unspoiled beauty.

Virginia City

Virginia City and Nevada City, well-preserved ghost towns in Montana, offer a glimpse into the area’s gold rush history. These charming small towns are filled with historical buildings and artifacts that transport visitors back in time to the 1860s.

The streets are lined with authentic wooden boardwalks and old-fashioned storefronts, providing a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the bygone era of the Wild West. Virginia City boasts live performances at the Opera House and steam train rides on the Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad, offering an unforgettable experience for history enthusiasts.

Visitors can also explore various museums showcasing gold rush memorabilia, period clothing, and antique vehicles — all abundant reminders of Montana’s rich heritage during this pivotal time in American history.

West Yellowstone

West Yellowstone, located at the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, offers a perfect blend of outdoor adventure and natural beauty. With close proximity to attractions like Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring, visitors can marvel at geysers and hot springs in the park.

In winter, snowmobile tours provide an exhilarating way to experience the stunning landscapes. The town also hosts events such as rodeos and art festivals throughout the year – making it an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts and culture seekers alike.


Whitefish, nestled in the stunning Rocky Mountains, is a charming small town offering a mix of outdoor adventures and laid-back vibes. The town boasts the pristine Whitefish Lake and the renowned Whitefish Mountain Resort for skiing enthusiasts.

With its lively downtown area filled with local shops and eateries, there’s no shortage of places to explore. Don’t miss out on taking a scenic drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road for breathtaking views of Glacier National Park.

Amidst the captivating scenery lie gems like art galleries and live music venues that add to the town’s vibrant culture. And if you’re into history, step back in time at The Stumptown Historical Society where you can delve into Whitefish’s past.

Must-Do Activities in Small Town Montana

A couple hikes a scenic mountain trail, enjoying the beautiful landscape and bustling atmosphere.

Explore scenic hiking trails, indulge in local cuisine at charming eateries, and immerse yourself in cultural events. Discover the vibrant music scene, partake in annual festivals, and engage in outdoor adventures amidst stunning natural surroundings.

Outdoor activities

In Montana’s small towns, outdoor activities abound. Hiking in the Sapphire Mountains offers breathtaking views. The Gallatin National Forest is perfect for camping and wildlife spotting.

Fishing on Lake Koocanusa is a relaxing way to spend a day. Exploring the old trail museum in Deer Lodge provides an enriching historical experience.

Montana boasts abundant opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Fort Owen State Park is steeped in history with trails and picnicking options; furthermore, bird-watching at Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam introduces visitors to local avian species – popular among nature lovers.

Cultural experiences

In Montana, small towns offer a rich tapestry of cultural experiences. From exploring historic sites like Virginia City and Nevada City to immersing oneself in local arts and crafts, there’s plenty to discover.

Engage with the state’s gold rush history at well-preserved ghost towns or visit music venues for a taste of Montana’s vibrant cultural scene. Additionally, immerse yourself in the unique architecture and traditions found in charming small towns, contributing to an enriching and diverse cultural exploration.

Indulge in the authentic food and drink offerings that showcase Montana’s culinary heritage, offering a delightful way to experience the local culture. Take part in annual events that celebrate the community spirit while providing insight into Montana’s traditions and customs.

Food and drink

Montana’s small towns offer a delightful array of dining experiences, from cozy diners to quaint cafes serving homemade dishes. Local specialties like bison burgers and huckleberry pie are must-tries, showcasing the state’s unique flavors.

In Choteau, savor farm-fresh meals at charming eateries while enjoying views of the stunning Rocky Mountain Front. Additionally, don’t miss out on refreshing craft beers in small-town breweries, where you can mingle with locals and get a taste of Montana’s vibrant community spirit.

Music venues

Montana offers a range of unique music venues in its small towns, such as intimate local bars and historic theaters. From live bluegrass performances at cozy pubs to open-air concerts in scenic town squares, there’s something for every music enthusiast.

Notable places include the Red Lodge Pub and Pollard Hotel, where visitors can enjoy live music and soak up the vibrant local culture. In Virginia City, the Opera House hosts musical events amidst its rich historical ambiance while providing an unforgettable experience for those seeking a blend of history and entertainment.

The charming small towns of Montana boast an array of outdoor concert spaces that showcase local talent against picturesque backdrops. Be it acoustic folk sessions near Saphire Mountains or lively jazz evenings by the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, these music venues offer a delightful way to immerse oneself in the region’s cultural tapestry.

Annual events

Small towns in Montana host lively annual events that showcase their unique charm. From the Western Heritage Days in Choteau to Red Lodge’s Winter Carnival, there are festivities for every interest.

The Montana Folk Festival brings music and culture to the streets of Butte, while the Stevensville Creamery Picnic offers a delightful celebration of local dairy heritage. These events provide an authentic glimpse into the heart and soul of Montana’s small towns, offering a chance to mingle with friendly locals and immerse oneself in their vibrant traditions.

In Ennis, the Madison Tractor Parade is a charming event featuring antique tractors decorated with festive lights, adding a touch of nostalgia to this small town experience. Additionally, Virginia City hosts living history weekends that transport visitors back in time to Montana’s gold rush era.

Charming Small Town Vibes in Montana

Explore the rustic charm of small towns nestled in stunning mountain scenery. Discover unique architecture and vibrant local shops, complemented by the warmth of friendly communities.

Rustic charm

Charming small towns in Montana exude rustic charm through their quaint main streets, adorned with vintage storefronts and historic buildings. The architecture reflects the state’s rich heritage, offering a glimpse into its past.

You’ll find cozy cafes serving locally roasted coffee, inviting you to savor the flavors of Montana while soaking up the friendly atmosphere. Strolling through these towns allows for encounters with welcoming locals eager to share stories about their community’s history and traditions.

The authentic rustic charm of these small towns creates an inviting ambiance that resonates with those seeking a genuine and unspoiled experience.

Stunning mountain scenery

Montana’s small towns boast stunning mountain scenery. From the grand peaks in Big Sky to Livingston Peak’s breathtaking views, there’s no shortage of natural beauty here. The picturesque backdrop of the Bitterroot Valley in Hamilton and the majestic landscapes surrounding Whitefish offer unforgettable vistas for those seeking tranquility and awe-inspiring sights during their exploration.

Montana’s quieter towns provide a front-row seat to some of the most striking mountain ranges and natural wonders.

Unique architecture

The small towns in Montana boast unique architecture that reflects their rich history and diverse influences. From frontier-style log cabins to elegant Victorian homes, the buildings in these towns tell stories of the past.

Each town showcases distinct architectural styles, such as the rustic charm of Fort Benton’s historic buildings or the ornate facades found in Virginia City. Local landmarks like the Copper King Mansion in Butte and historic downtown districts across Montana offer a glimpse into the state’s architectural heritage.

In Red Lodge, visitors can admire the distinctive western-inspired designs of its buildings, while Choteau boasts impressive examples of early 20th-century architecture. The architectural diversity found throughout these small towns adds character and allure to Montana’s lesser-known destinations, providing an immersive experience for those interested in historical and cultural exploration.

Local shops and businesses

Explore the local shops and businesses in Montana’s small towns, offering unique treasures and one-of-a-kind finds like handmade crafts, artisanal goods, and locally sourced products.

Discover charming boutiques, cozy cafes, and family-owned stores that reflect the warm hospitality of these communities. From antique shops in Virginia City to outdoor gear stores in Whitefish, there are plenty of opportunities to support local businesses while finding special souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

In addition to shopping for unique items, you can also engage with friendly locals who are passionate about sharing their stories and recommendations. Whether you’re browsing art galleries in Livingston or tasting homemade treats at a bakery in Polson, these small-town establishments provide a welcoming atmosphere where you can connect with the heart of Montana’s vibrant community spirit.

Friendly communities

Montana’s small towns are known for their friendly communities, where locals warmly welcome visitors. In places like Choteau and Fort Benton, you’ll experience the genuine hospitality of small-town living.

These communities have a strong sense of camaraderie and often come together for local events and festivals, making it easy for travelers to feel right at home in these charming neighborhoods.

Additionally, Montana’s smaller towns embrace a neighborly spirit where people look out for one another – creating an inviting atmosphere that adds to the appeal of exploring these hidden gems.

Insider Tips for Exploring Small Town Montana

Discover unique accommodations like cozy cabins and locally-owned bed and breakfasts. Connect with locals to uncover hidden gems off the beaten path for an authentic small-town experience.

Recommended places to stay

When exploring Montana’s small towns, consider these recommended places to stay:

  1. The historic Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton offers a charming and cozy stay with its elegant Victorian-style rooms and convenient downtown location.
  2. For a relaxing retreat, the Rainbow Ranch Lodge near Big Sky provides a rustic yet luxurious experience amidst the breathtaking natural beauty of the Gallatin River Valley.
  3. Nestled in the heart of Livingston, the Murray Hotel combines old – world charm with modern comforts, making it an ideal base for exploring this vibrant small town.
  4. The Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish boasts comfortable accommodations and stunning views of the surrounding mountains, allowing guests to unwind in nature’s embrace.
  5. Experience Western hospitality at its finest at the Pollard Hotel in Red Lodge, where guests can enjoy a blend of history and comfort in this well-preserved establishment from the late 19th century.
  6. Unwind at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort near Anaconda for a rejuvenating stay that includes access to natural hot springs pools and various recreational activities amidst serene surroundings.
  7. Enjoy a peaceful respite at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort near Thompson Falls, featuring beautifully appointed cabins and soothing hot springs along the Clark Fork River.

Local guides and tips

When exploring Montana’s small towns, there are some handy tips for an enjoyable trip:

  1. Seek accommodations in cozy bed and breakfasts or local boutique hotels to immerse in the town’s charm without sacrificing comfort.
  2. Engage with friendly locals for insider recommendations on must-see attractions and hidden gems off the beaten path.
  3. Embrace the slower pace of small-town life by savoring leisurely meals at quaint cafes and family-owned restaurants, where you can indulge in regional specialties like huckleberry pie or bison burgers.
  4. Take advantage of local tour operators or visitor centers for guided tours that offer historical insights and captivating anecdotes about the town’s heritage. Discover intriguing historical landmarks and lesser-known spots that showcase the town’s unique character.
  5. Keep an eye out for community events, such as farmers’ markets, craft fairs, or live music performances, offering a glimpse into the local culture and a chance to mingle with residents.
  6. Immerse in outdoor adventures favored by locals; from scenic hikes and fishing spots to recreational activities unique to each town’s surroundings.
  7. Plan your visit around annual festivals or cultural celebrations that showcase the town’s traditions, such as rodeos, fiddling contests, or historical reenactments.
  8. Sample locally produced goods at specialty shops and artisanal boutiques featuring handcrafted souvenirs, artwork, and one-of-a-kind gifts unique to each small town.
  9. Check with local experts for weather – specific tips to make the most of seasonal activities like skiing in winter or wildflower viewing in springtime.

Best Small Towns In Montana Conclusion

Get ready to explore Montana’s hidden gems and charming small towns. Uncover the state’s rich history and stunning landscapes. From Fort Benton to Big Sky, each town offers unique experiences waiting to be discovered.

Your journey through the best small towns in Montana promises unforgettable memories and adventures worth savoring. So pack your bags and set off on an exciting exploration of Montana’s charming treasures!

Best Small Towns In Montana FAQs

1. What makes Bozeman, Montana a must-visit small town?

Bozeman shines as a gem in The Treasure State, boasting stunning natural beauty and a vibrant community. It’s the perfect spot for those who love outdoor adventures.

2. Can you tell me about an interesting place to visit in Missoula?

Sure! The Fort Owens area near Missoula offers visitors a peek into Montana’s rich history. It’s fascinating and definitely worth your time.

3. Why is Red Lodge, Montana known as a charming small town?

Red Lodge is nestled at the base of the majestic mountains and offers breathtaking views all year round… Plus, its cozy downtown area is full of unique shops and eateries that locals love.

4. What’s special about Livingston, Montana?

Livingston serves up a slice of old-school charm with its historic buildings and ties to figures like William Ennis… making it an intriguing stop for history buffs.

5. Are there any museums in these small towns worth visiting?

Absolutely! For example, the Ravalli County Museum provides insightful glimpses into local culture and history – it’s both educational and entertaining for visitors of all ages.

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