The college basketball season ended last night as Villanova was crowned champion, but in Helena, the bracket craziness continues.
The Montana Historical Society Awesome Objects Competition is is down to the wire.
From the preliminaries to the Montana sixteen, we're now down to the final two contenders in MHS’s competition.
It has come down to the number No. 1 seed, C.M. Russell’s famed painting, “When the Land Belonged to God,” and a the sometimes overlooked, but never underestimated, relic from the Smith Coal Mine disaster.
As the brainchild behind this history edition of Montana Madness, Martha Kohl, puts it, the competition has come down to story versus beauty. Something that has historians here divided.
"The smith mine disaster board isn't much to look at, people just often walk right by it," said Kohl.
However, the story behind this piece of wood is incredibly moving: knowing he probably wouldn't survive what turned out to be one of the deadliest mine explosion in Montana history, a coal miner named Emil Anderson took the lid off of a dynamite container and the chalk in his hand to write a farewell message to his family.
"Agnes and children, I’m sorry we had to go this way, God bless you all... Emile, with lots, kisses"
The moving message has pushed the Smith Coal artifact this far, but its got some serious competition.
"This is considered one of the greatest pieces of American art, period. By one of the greatest artists, Charles M. Russell," said Bruce Whittenberg, Director for the Montana Historical Society.
Some critics have said this piece is one you must see before you die. It tells the idealistic story of what Montana looked like before Europeans arrived in the state and began hunting down the buffalo and Montana’s natural beauty.
"How could when the land belonged to god not be the winner of Montana Madness?" said Whittenberg.
Even though Kohl and Whittenberg disagree on which piece should claim the top prize, they agree this competition has been a success. Thousands of votes have been cast from folks across the state.
'We've had school kids playing in Webo and Gardner, so across the state, teachers have gotten their kids involved.. Parents have gotten their kid's involved," said Kohl.
No matter the winner, Kohl says they've won over a new audience, which makes it all worth while.
Folks have until tomorrow, April 4, at midnight to vote for either the Russell masterpiece or the sentimental farewell.
The historical society will announce their victor early Thursday morning.