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Cars filled both arenas at the annual Toppers Car Show in West Fargo. David Samson/The Forum
Cars filled both arenas at the annual Toppers Car Show in West Fargo. David Samson/The Forum

2011 in review

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news Fargo, 58102

Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

By Karen Huber

The year 2011 was one of change and growth in West Fargo and surrounding communities, whether the topic pertained to city government, school related endeavors, or was attached to business or resident issues in general.

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The city saws its longtime finance director retire, a new human resource position created, and suffered the untimely passing of one of its most respected colleagues and friends, and a heralded city leader who had served the community well as its first and only lady mayor.

The third time was indeed a charm for the West Fargo School district as a $82.5 million bond referendum was approved paving the way for additional construction to house students in a variety of curriculum settings.

Changes with the Catholic Church network also caused quite a stir as announcements were made regarding repositioning of local parishes, possible mergers, as well as the implementation of new elementary school structures within the diocese.

These bits of news and so much more went into making the year 2011 the newsmaker that it was. The following monthly recaps attempt to capture some of the high spots.

Read, remember and reflect.

January

Professing he never had a bad hair day in 44 years, longtime West Fargo barber Al Nelson, who operated the Barber Hut, announced his retirement, turning in his razor, scissors and comb for golf clubs and much needed vacation time. Jeremy Keller took over operation of the business.

West Fargo City Commissioners reaffirmed their commitment to a Red River Diversion alignment a mile and a half to the west, to avoid negative interference with the Sheyenne Diversion and future growth.

Alex Sothjun of West Fargo was appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy by Senator Kent Conrad.

The West Fargo Park District celebrated its annual Winter Days event.

West Fargo Police Department officer Eric Wiinanen was recognized as a Veterans of Foreign Wars National Law Enforcement Award winner. He began his career with the police department in 1996.

Also a member of the West Fargo Police Department since 1996, Jason Dura was promoted to Chief Master Sergeant, the highest enlisted rank, by the North Dakota Air National Guard.

Longtime West Fargo resident Bernie Lisburg passed away at the age of 93.

Plans for some major reorganizational changes were announced by the Fargo Catholic Diocese for a number of local Catholic churches, including Holy Cross and Blessed Sacrament in West Fargo, and St. Benedict's at Wild Rice, that included the merging of Holy Cross and Blessed Sacrament.

Sadie Falk was named West Fargo Community High School Student of the Month for January.

Florenz Bjornson, West Fargo's one and only leading lady, passed away in Willmar, Minn., surrounded by her family. A 70-year resident of West Fargo, Bjornson, at the age of 70 succeeded Clayton Lodoen as mayor in 1986.

Mary DeJong, a senior at West Fargo High School and the daughter of Becky DeJong, was named West Fargo Exchange Club Student of the Month for January.

February

The announcement that congregations of Blessed Sacrament and Holy Cross might be merging was met with mixed reaction by parishioners, mostly negative. Noting that the decision was basically in its beginning stages, with input being sought, a series of meetings were scheduled to address the proposal.

The West Fargo High School Drama Department presented the musical "Hairspray."

Longtime West Fargo resident and businessman Marv Hamm, who operated Priced Right Optical, passed away.

West Fargo City Commissioners granted a five-year remodeling exemption to

Crary Industries, for an approximate 3,200 square foot remodeling project.

The West Fargo School District Band Departments presented their All-City Band Concert at the high school gym.

South Elementary School Principal Loren Kersting was honored as the 2011 National Distinguished Principal by the North Dakota Association of School Principals during their annual banquet. Kersting has been with the West Fargo schools for 25 years, serving as South Elementary principal since 1992.

Megan Broton, as senior at West Fargo High School and the daughter of Spencer and Sheila Broton, was named West Fargo High School Student of the Month for February.

USDA Rural Development Director Jasper Schneider paid a visit to West Fargo to check out the status of the new southside fire substation located off Sheyenne Street at 445 29th Ave. W.

Dr. Cory Steiner was named West Fargo High School Principal, effective July 1, filling the position left open by the announcement of retirement of present principal Gary Clark.

West Fargo Police Department Officer Jason Balvik was named the recipient of the Outstanding Safety Instruction Award by the North Dakota Safety Council. Balvik has been with the department since April of 2005.

Betty Hanson, principal at the Lodoen Kindergarten Center for eight years, was presented with the Golden Apple Award by the North Dakota Association of Elementary School Principals.

West Fargo Volunteer Firefighter Rory Jorgensen and West Fargo Police Officer Stacy Dawkins were honored by the N.D. American Legion respectively as Firefighter of the Year and the Ray Atol Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award winner nominated by Richard E. Nelson Post #297 in Harwood.

Mike Cota has been West Fargo Community High School Student of the Month for February.

March

West Fargo School Board members gave the nod to YHR Partners to begin design work on a new elementary school at 26th Avenue South and Fourth Street. The school would house 600 students and be completed by the start of the 2012 school year.

The West Fargo VFW hosted their 8th annual Remember Our Serving Soldiers (R.O.S.S.) event, with proceeds benefiting fall soldiers and their families as well as military support groups.

Longtime West Fargo resident LaVonne Olsgaard passed away at the age of 81. She and her husband Otto celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary the previous September.

Staff Sergeant Chad Braaten of West Fargo received a coin of excellence for ensuring the 191st Military Police Company's equipment was at the peak of maintenance standards prior to a Command Organizational Maintenance Evaluation Team inspection.

Plans for a privately owned golf course in Westport Beach, on the drawing board for over three years, were officially abandoned, with developers opting instead to accommodate additional residential development in The Wild's First Addition.

West Fargo Police Department Officer Todd Pearson, serving as an SRO in both West Fargo and Community High Schools, was awarded the status of National School Resource Officer Practitioner, an elite group. He joined the department in January of 2000.

West Fargo School Board members wondered if the third time would be the charm as they moved forward with a $82.5 million bond referendum, setting May 24 as the voting date. Referendum construction plans included: two elementary schools, a new middle school, a 900-student addition to the Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center, transforming it into a second high school; and renovations to West Fargo High School to accommodate the addition of a ninth grade to the student body.

New census figures revealed that West Fargo had grown in population to 25,830 making it the fifth largest city in the state, up from the number eight spot ten years ago.

Jason McQuade was named the West Fargo Community High Student of the Month for March.

Reuben and Carol Berg, West Fargo, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with an open house at the West Fargo VFW. They were married Feb. 10, 1961 in Dilworth, have two children, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Several West Fargo VFW members banded together to help package roughly 600 pounds of venison and elk jerky for delivery to troops currently serving overseas as part of the Jerky Worth Fighting For program observing its fifth year of operation.

Hope Pearson, a senior at West Fargo High School and the daughter of Victoria Pearson, was selected as the West Fargo Exchange Club Student of the Month for March.

April

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney was recognized by U.S. Senator John Hoeven in Washington, D.C., as a 9-1-1 Government Leader for his work to promote emergency response efforts and to demonstrate the importance of 9-1-1. Laney is chairperson of the board of authority for the Red River Regional Dispatch Center in Fargo.

The annual Minn-Kota Feline Cat Show was held at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo.

The Speedway Restaurant reopened at 680 West Main Ave. in West Fargo, after operating as Legend's Bar and Grill. Original owner Curt Burdick reacquired the business, also bringing back all the trademark menu items and pricings customers were previously familiar with.

Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center Band and Choir Director Sue Jordahl was named West Fargo School District Teacher of the Year in a surprise ceremony at the school. She has been an integral part of the district since 1985, assisting in a number of areas including the West Fargo High School musical, and the West Fargo High School Fine Arts program.

The 17th annual Gigantic Rummage Sale promoted by the West Fargo Park District at the Veterans Memorial Arena was a huge success with more than 100 vendors displaying their wares, and approximately 2,000 visitors taking it all in.

Wenzhu "Wendy" Sun, a senior at West Fargo High School and the daughter of Chengwen Sun, was named West Fargo Exchange Club Student of the Month for April.

A spring storm blanketed the region with fluffy white snow in advance of the Easter holiday.

West Fargo Education Association President Joan Connors was the recipient of the North Dakota Education Association's Educational Award at their representative assembly held in Bismarck.

Sabrina Stebner has been named West Fargo Community High School Student of the Month for April.

Gene Rudolph was honored for more than 30 years of accident-free service at the West Fargo Post Office as a letter carrier, receiving a plaque and pin from the National Safety Council's Million Mile Club. He was also honored for 40 years of service with the West Fargo Post Office. He and his wife, Sharon, reside in West Fargo.

Bonnie Misialek, an employee of Aurora Elementary School, was selected to receive the 2010 Caregiver of the Year Award by the Metro Area Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities. She has lived in West Fargo for many years, her children attended school in the community, and she has worked with special education students as a paraprofessional for 14 years.

May

The West Fargo Fire and Police Departments officially moved into the new southside substation at 445 29th Ave. W.

Following weeks of meetings and parishioner input, Bishop Samuel Aquila announced that Blessed Sacrament and Holy Cross Churches would not be merging, instead Holy Cross Church will be relocating to a new site on undeveloped land west of Veterans Blvd. and south of I-94 in order to meet development and growth needs in the community. Plans also call for a school and religious education facility. The announcement was also confirmed that Blessed Sacrament would remain open and continue to serve its parishioners.

The National Association of Letter Carriers and Rural Letter Carriers conducted their 19th Annual Food Drive in efforts to stock the pantries of local food banks.

Kevin Froeber of Classic Vending presented a donation of $500 to the West Fargo Dollars for Scholars organization, as part of his annual endeavor to help provide local students with scholarships.

The West Fargo Police Department added its newest member to their squad, Disco, a two-year old Long Haired German Shepherd, as part of the city's first ever K-9 Unit. Officer Pete Nielsen is Disco's handler and partner and was the driving force behind his addition to the department.

The Fargo Red River Valley Regional Group of the Horseless Carriage Club of America held its 38th annual Art Olson Swap Meet and Car Show at Bonanzaville.

Ben Ballweber, a senior at West Fargo High School and the son of Mike and Toni Ballweber, was selected as the West Fargo Exchange Club Student of the Month for May.

Former West Fargo Police Chief Ken Hansen was the guest of honor at the annual Arbor Day Tree Planting Ceremony that was held at the West Fargo Police Department. A Linden Tree was planted on his behalf in front of the department. The day of the planting, May 13, also happened to be his 71st birthday.

The West Fargo Exchange Club presented a $3,000 donation to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in support of their programs working with families and children who have been subjected to domestic violence and child abuse.

Loren Thoennes and Josh Green from Brenco Corp. presented a power washer to the West Fargo Fire Department, to be used to maintain equipment at the new southside station. This is the second washer Brenco has donated to the fire department in the last three years.

Dr. Shannon Hays, daughter of Mark and Billie Jo Hayes, Harwood, graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis. She will begin her residency in Internal Medicine at Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis.

Frank Lenzmeier was recognized by the West Fargo Exchange Club as their 2011 Civic Excellence Award winner, Rhonda Jorgensen as West Fargo Police Department Employee of the Year, and Joey Porter, as West Fargo Fire Department Volunteer Firefighter of the Year.

The West Fargo School District received the public's consent for an $82.5 million building bond referendum with 70 percent of more than 7,400 votes cast supporting the proposed plan.

Glen and Jeannine Maurer of West Fargo celebrated their 60th anniversary with an open house at their home. They were married May 26, 1951 in Fargo; have four children, 15 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. They also both celebrated milestone 80th birthdays.

Allan and Sharon Nelson, Fargo, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with an open house at Faith Lutheran Church. They were married June 3, 1961 at Salem Lutheran Church, rural Stephen, Minn. They have three children and three grandchildren.

Proceeds from the March West Fargo VFW R.O.S.S. event in the amount of $14,498.30 were donated to local military support groups at a special ceremony held at the Fargo Armed Services Center.

Dr. Robert Hasse, D.C. of the West Fargo Chiropractic Center was named North Dakota Chiropractor of the Year at the ND Chiropractor Association Convention held in Bismarck.

Dacota Anderson has been named the West Fargo Community High School Student of the Month for May.

A Memorial Day storm walloped the area with heavy rains and winds clocked up to 70 miles per hour, triggering tornado sirens to blare. Signal lights were knocked down, some streets were closed due to flooding, and some residents experienced power outages, but there were no injuries related to the storm.

June

Gary Clark bid farewell to the West Fargo School District after 40 years of service, first hired in 1971 as a social studies teacher at West Fargo High School and serving as assistant principal at the high school prior to being named principal in 1998, upon the resignation of Mike Drew.

Longtime local resident and businessman Ernie Pyle, 87, passed away at his home in Fort Myers, Florida, leaving behind his wife of 67-years Betty Lou.

West Fargo High School Graduation was held at the Scheels Arena in Fargo.

The ever-popular Cruise Night made its Thursday night return to Sheyenne Street, with hundreds of classic vehicles lining the roadway all the way from Main Avenue to Seventh Avenue, much to the satisfaction of the passel of visitors and participants who turned out for the event.

Michael Bagan and Jessica Smith, both graduating medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences were the recipients of special honors: Bagan, the Axel and Agnes Kongslie Memorial Scholarship Endowment award, and Smith, the Department of Surgery Senior award.

David and Laurie Erickson, West Fargo, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with an open house at their home. They have four children, 13 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Town and Country Credit Union, 925 14th Ave. E., celebrated their newly remodeled location with a weeklong open house.

Sandy Kosena, a 1982 graduate of West Fargo High School and the daughter of Jim and Brenda Bjorklund, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant for the Missoula Police Department in Missoula, Mont. A 20-year veteran of the department, Sandy is the first female officer to achieve the rank in the 138-year history of the department.

Sgt. Joel Erickson, West Fargo, a member of Detachment 1, 188th Engineer Company (Vertical), bases out of Oakes, was the winner of the Region VI Best Warrior Competition in the noncommissioned officer category held at the Camp Grafton Training Center in Devils Lake.

Nascar great Tony Stewart paid a visit to West Fargo racing in competition at the Red River Valley Speedway with fellow race car driver and friend Donny Schatz, whose father operates the Speedway.

Dorothy Berger passed away at the age of 95 at Sheyenne Crossings in West Fargo. Wife of longtime educator, L.E. Berger, Dorothy was active in a number of areas including teaching school, serving as a musical director, the North Dakota Democratic party and as an avid sports fan.

Captain Eric "Dirk" Ziegler of West Fargo died while flying a training mission near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

July

Christoph Peter Schmidt, son of Rev. Peter and Vicki Schmidt, West Fargo, was ordained into the ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran church in America at his home church, Faith Lutheran in West Fargo.

Frank "Franco" Hebert said his good byes to the city of West Fargo, stepping down after a 20-year career with the sanitation department, joining the staff in May of 1991.

The Red River Valley Fair took over the Fairgrounds in West Fargo, with a full slate of grounds and grandstand entertainment drawing in thousands of visitors during its nine-day run. Headlining acts included Uncle Kracker, Little Big Town and Hairball.

The West Fargo VVW and Ladies Auxiliary captured a variety of awards at the group's state convention in Grand Forks. Those receiving individual awards included: Rick Fuller, Bill Tuff, Lulu Tostenson, Mary Ann Hudson, Dale Ronning, and Patti Tuff.

During the West Fargo School Board's annual change of positions, Ben Koppelman was unanimously approved as president and Patti Stedman was elected vide president. Board member Karen Nitzkorski had previously served as president.

Craig Johnson was elected as Post Commander of the West Fargo VFW, Agnes Rieniets as President of the Ladies Auxiliary, and Russell Berg as

Commander of the Military Order of Cooties Pup Tent 8, all for the 2011-2012 service year.

The first Summer Arts Intensive program and their production of the popular musical "Pippin" was presented in collaboration with the West Fargo High School Theatre Department and the West Fargo Public Schools at the Cheney Middle School stage.

August

The Pyrotechnics Guild International was back bigger and better than ever, after a four-year lull, with their fireworks extravaganza Rhapsody on the Red. The spectacular light show emanated from the Red River Valley Fairgrounds during a seven-day run, much to the delight of enthusiasts able to experience the sights of the spectacular light show at its finest.

Caterpillar announced a major $50 million expansion project consisting of a 225,000 square foot addition to their plant that will result in the creation of 250 new jobs over a three-year time frame. Targeted completion date is June of 2012.

Jodi Wilson, daughter of Monty and Marlene Wilson of Harwood, had her photographic talents recognized in Rolling Stone Magazine with the publication of her shot of Maria Forsberg as the 'new face' of the X Games. Wilson owns and operates her own photography studio in Monroe, Wash.

Members of the West Fargo Lions Club completed their annual clean up trek down Sheyenne Street, from 13th Avenue South to the Interchange, picking up trash along the boulevards in their quest to keep the roadway litter free.

Peterson Farms Seed, owned by Carl and Julie Peterson and located on the family farm near Prosper, celebrated their 16th anniversary with a special party and tours of the plant.

Horace hosted their annual Bean Days celebration complete with grand parade, popular mud run, flea market and craft show, classic car show, and a concluding street dance.

The city of West Fargo announced they would be adopting a late fee of $10 starting Oct. 1 for any utility account that hasn't been paid by the 15th of the month. Previously, there was no late fee charge assessed.

Jerry and Carol Smith of West Fargo celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with their family. They were married Aug. 26, 1961 at Nativity Catholic Church, Fargo. They have four children and 11 grandchildren.

The Veterans Memorial Arena completed a much needed makeover with the realization of a new walking track and bleachers for the upcoming sports season.

Troy White was hired as the new Executive Director at Bonanzaville, in charge of managing the operations as well as promoting the attraction.

Richard and Clare Elless of West Fargo observed their 60th wedding anniversary at an open house at the Fargo Holiday Inn. They were married Aug. 20, 1951 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Crosby, Minn. They have six children, six grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.

Jesse Suppa, son of Michael and Kimberly Suppa, of West Fargo, earned his Eagle Scout rank at a Court of Honor ceremony. He is a member of Troop 232.

Once again, thousands of enthusiasts showed up on Sheyenne Street for the highly popular Cruise Night taking in all the evening had to offer, filled with classic vehicles, fun, food and plenty of family activity.

September

Harwood rolled out the welcome mat for their Community Days celebration jam packed with a variety of events for everyone to enjoy.

Faith Lutheran Church and Journey In Faith Worship hosted their annual Rally Day observance Sunday, Sept. 11, also taking into consideration the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, giving special recognition to emergency personnel for the role they play.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple appointed Richard Belling of West Fargo to a three-year term on the Administrative Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACOVA).

The Midwest's largest farm expo - Big Iron - held its 31st annual show, drawing in over 800 agricultural exhibits and approximately 80th visitors during its three-day run at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo.

The announcement that Costco would be locating their first North Dakota store off of I-94 and Veterans Boulevard in West Fargo became official with a purchase agreement formally signed for the 18-acre parcel between the big box retailer and owners of the property, Rusty Goose Development, LLP.

Joe and Joan Ruliffson, Fargo, formerly Mapleton, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with an open house at the NDSU Alumni Center. They were married Sept. 23, 1961 at Highland Lutheran Church, rural Cummings, N.D. They have four children and eight grandchildren.

West Fest was two decades old, with the annual daylong celebration playing off that theme, complete with one of the biggest and best parades ever with its 130 entries, that saw longtime West Fargo resident and businessman Frank Lenzmeier leading the parade, accompanied by his wife, Darla.

West Fargo City Commissioners approved their 2012 budget with expenditures totaling a little over $32 million on a good news note for city residents - no mill levy increase and no utility rate hikes.

Reaffirming its commitment to the region, Cargill announced they would be rebuilding and expanding their oilseed processing plant in West Fargo with project final costs expected to total more than $50 million.

Faye Stromberg, as senior at West Fargo High School and the daughter of Bob and Kim Stromberg, has been named West Fargo Exchange Club Student of the Month for September.

Tim Olson owner of the Spitfire Bar and Grill in West Fargo was invited to compete in the 23rd running of the annual Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg, Tenn., along with his wife, Mary. He took a sixth place finish in 2009 and also a third place for their ribs.

Lucas Keller, son of Rick and Sandra Keller, West Fargo, earned the Eagle Scout rank at a Court of Honor Ceremony. He is a member of Troop 274, Horace.

Tina Gustafson, originally from Langdon, N.D., took over as Finance Director for the city of West Fargo, replacing Sharon Schacher who stepped down after a 35-year career.

Longtime West Fargo resident Carmen Schroeder was named to head up the new Human Resource Director position for the city of West Fargo.

City Development Director Dorinda Anderson passed away following kidney transplant surgery that resulted in other complications. She was a vital part of the West Fargo community as a businessperson, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, daughter-in-law and friend.

Gordy's Inc., Mapleton, received a USDA Rural Development grant under the Rural Energy for America program in the amount of $35,704 to assist with the purchase and installation of five flexible fuel pumps, that replaced the existing gas and diesel pumps.

For the remainder of the year in review see next week's copy of the Pioneer / News.

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