Carnival 2020: Duffey named Prime, Straka named Duchess

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Marcus Duffey is the Prime Minister and Sara Straka the Duchess of Lark for Whitefish Winter Carnival. (Photos courtesy Jill Courtney)

The first royalty of the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival has been announced.

Marcus Duffey was named Prime Minister and Sara Straka the new Duchess of Lark during the Merry Maker Saturday night at the Whitefish Moose Lodge.

Marcus Duffey hails from West Texas, but left Texas to attend Gonzaga University.

Duffey met his wife, Audrey (Peterson) there and they married soon after graduation. They moved back to Audrey’s hometown of Whitefish as quickly as they could.

The Duffeyes have enjoyed life in the Flathead Valley with their four children for the past 12 years. Rearing their children, George, 7, Charley, 5, Jane, 3, and Ruth, 1, in the mountain town of Whitefish was a dream of theirs.

Duffey grew a prominent local business for nearly a dozen years and proudly participated in dozens of local events and organizations.

Today, he maintains much of his community involvement as he sits on the North Valley Hospital Foundation Board of Directors and he chairs the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Duffey is a Realtor with Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty. Duffey enjoys the great outdoors as a fisherman, hunter, skier and golfer, as well as a passion for cooking and gardening.

In the summer, you will often find Duffey and his family camping alongside a river somewhere in northwest Montana.

Sara Straka is a Whitefish native, born in 1985 to Joe and Cindy Straka, who relocated to Montana from the Midwest in the early 80s. She was raised in Whitefish with her younger brother Sam, attended Whitefish schools and graduated at the top of her class in 2003. She attended college at the University of Notre Dame and graduated in 2007 with a bachelor of science degree. Longing for the mountains and the familiarity of her hometown, she moved back to Whitefish shortly after finishing college.

Planning to take a “year off” before pursuing a career or graduate studies, Straka worked in local restaurants and spent her time enjoying being home in Montana. One year quickly turned into a decade, and she found she loved the hospitality industry, interacting with people from all walks of life, locals and tourists alike.

She currently is the Front of House Manager at Last Chair Kitchen and Bar, and can still be found some evenings in the restaurant, although she now primarily works full-time as a Branch Office Administrator at Edward Jones Investments.

She enjoys spending her free time with her partner of nine years, Jason Callihan, and their two dogs, Ruckus and Cannon. They are usually rafting the North Fork, camping or exploring Northwest Montana in the summer, and skiing the mountain in the winter.

Straka is actively involved in the community, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Nate Chute Foundation for suicide prevention, a cause she is deeply passionate about.

She has previously participated in Whitefish Winter Carnival as a Viking Diva, following in the footsteps of Jason’s mother Teresa Kelly, who was one of the original Divas.

Carnival festivities continue Saturday, Jan. 18 with the coronation of King Ullr LXI and the Queen of the Snows at 7 p.m. at the O’Shaughnessy Center downtown. A disco party is planned the same evening.

Princess Freya and Prince Frey will be named at the Bulldogs basketball game on Jan. 24 at Whitefish High School.

Skijoring is planned Jan. 25-26.

The main carnival events take place Feb. 7-9 including the Penguin Plunge, a pie social and Grand Parade. This year’s theme is “The Roaring 2020s.”

For a complete list of activities, go to

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