Despite the privileging of urban places in the United States and a lack of national investment in rural landscapes, rural communities persist through a number of means, including rural community events. People with disabilities are more likely to live in rural places, and engagement in rural community events is an important opportunity for community participation, a human right emphasised in the Disability Rights Movement. This study, based on 63 ‘in-the-moment’ interviews at six diverse rural community events across the western part of the state of Montana, highlights how the organisation of rural community events can reproduce cultural inclusion and exclusion of people with disabilities, either enhancing or limiting their opportunities to benefit. Important benefits highlighted here include the chance to connect and reconnect with others, to be an active agent in the building and maintaining of community, and to engage in self-development within a social and economic system that is outside of the dominant culture. Because the opportunity costs of exclusion are high, we recommend that event organisers be purposeful and persistent in their efforts to ensure that their events are physically, socially and culturally accessible for people with disabilities.