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West Fargo celebrates West Fest

If you are expecting the same great West Fest celebration you've grown accustomed to in the past then you are going to be happy with the 18th annual version working off the theme "We're Building for the Future," set to fill the streets of West Fargo Saturday, Sept. 19 and Sunday, September 20.

The only exception this year is all the road construction, which will not play a major factor, with adjustments necessary for any affected events dealt with accordingly.

Coming on board in June as the West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Kent Campbell is looking forward to the excitement of West Fest and is feeling right at home in his first year of involvement. "The whole event is an excellent showcase that brings our community together and one that the chamber is happy to be able to help facilitate."

He said the legions of guests expected to take in West Fest are guaranteed an excellent time thanks to the "commitment of the many volunteers and sponsoring community organizations that have helped refine the event to its present pinnacle state. To have the type of involvement and participation from chamber members and volunteers really signifies the dedication of individuals to bring the community together and make the event grow and prosper."

Campbell said the commitment of the entire chamber staff has been integral to the planning process, specifically singling out Communications and Events Coordinator Julie Yourczek, who Campbell credits with doing an outstanding job, especially with the family fun activities and the parade. "Julie has done a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work coordinating all of these events, as well as securing volunteers to help out wherever needed to assure that all the youngsters attending have a really good time."

Centenarian Goldie Houkom leading grand parade<

Always billed as a huge event, Campbell said this year's parade, one of the largest of its type in the area, will continue to live up to its high expectations, with over 130 entries already signed up to participate, featuring a diverse cross section of business and organization entities.

Gracing the lead car as grand marshal will be longtime West Fargo resident Goldie Houkom who will be celebrating her 101st birthday Christmas Eve.

Houkom said she has "done just about everything" in her hundred-plus years and is now happy to have been selected by chamber officials to add West Fest grand marshal to that list of accomplishments.

She will be accompanied in the lead car by several of her family members yet to be determined. Her son, former longtime West Fargo resident and businessman Irv Houkom, who has been helping her with the parade plans is sure to be one of them.

"For an old lady who has lived on a farm most of her life to have something like this happen is an amazing honor," Goldie said. "I didn't expect anything like this."

Still very active, but plagued by arthritis, Goldie chooses to stick pretty close to the confines of her home these days. "I have hardly been off the place. I stay home all the time except when I go out with Irv or one of my friends for lunch."

She also continues to bake the bread she has become famous for among family and friends, although not as frequently as she used to. "I just let it last and don't give quite as much away any more so I don't have to bake it as often," she said.

Much to her delight, Goldie's daughter Helen Forbes from Happy Camp, California, flew in last week and is spending several days visiting with her mom, as well as taking in the West Fargo High School class of 1954 reunion, scheduled in conjunction with West Fest. Another daughter, Peggy Haakanson, Bismarck, is expected to arrive and also spend time with the pair.

Altered parade route

Because of all the roadwork, the typical Main Avenue route for the parade has been altered just a bit to accommodate the ease and safety of both parade participants and spectators.

Lineup previous years started on the frontage road at Bonanzaville but this year the startup has been shifted to the Lodoen Center off of 3rd Ave. E. The actual parade route will travel west on 2nd Avenue to Sheyenne Street with the official starting point the corner of 2nd Avenue and Sheyenne Street. The parade will travel south on Sheyenne Street to 10th Avenue, which will be the

termination point.

Slate of activities

In addition to the parade, several other activities will highlight West Fest including: the Ministerial Society Pancake Breakfast at Faith Lutheran Church from 7:30 to 10 a.m.; the 7th annual Mike McLeod Softball Tournament at Elmwood Park at 8 a.m.; Alzheimer's Association 5K run/walk at Rendezvous Park at 9 a.m.; Horseshoe Tournament at Elmwood Park at 9:30 a.m.; Valley Vintage Car Show, both days of West Fest, at the Veterans Memorial Arena, starting at 10 a.m.; Lunch and Munch food court at State Bank & Trust, at 10 a.m.; Penny and Pals on Sheyenne Street at 10:30 a.m., Family Fun at South Elementary School, 2:30 to 5 p.m. with Games to Go, clowns, food, bingo, and SADD carnival; and the Annual Firefighter's Ball at the Red River Valley Fairground, with music by Past Due at 8 p.m..

A new event this year will be Thomas Face Painting from Valley City, offering both partial and full face painting. The mascots from FOX, Froggy and Pizza Ranch will also be on hand to visit with the youngsters. The Entertainment Company will be presenting Jeffrey Salveson and his magic show, at 3:30 p.m., and caricatures by Jack Lunde, as well as clowns. Northwest Martial Arts will be providing a demonstration at 4 p.m. All of these activities are free to those attending with the exception of the SADD carnival, where there will be minimal charges for games played. Food vendors will also be available on site.

Other food, beverage, and fun

Several businesses will be accommodating guests with food and refreshments throughout the course of West Fest.

The Speedway Restaurant, at 680 West Main Ave., will be hosting a preliminary kick off event Friday evening featuring an All Class Reunion Steak Dinner in the Events Center for $25 per person that includes a steak dinner at 6:30 p.m., and the cover charge for Billy D and the Crystals who will be playing from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Gates to the event will open at 4:30 p.m.

Stars and Strikes Bowling Alley, located at 424 Sheyenne St., will be providing an outdoor beverage garden from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with food available from Three Lyons Pub, then later that evening will be offering an 'after party' following the Firefighters Ball from midnight to 2 a.m. with free bowling.

The West Fargo VFW at 308 Sheyenne St. will be hosting a parking lot party from noon to 7 p.m., serving hot dogs during the parade and a steak fry from 4 to 7 p.m. at a cost of $8 per person. Refreshments will also be served.

Concluding Firefighter's Ball observing 70th birthday

What better way to conclude West Fest Saturday evening than by taking in the annual firefighter's ball, that is celebrating a 70 year anniversary milestone with the 2009 observance.

The ball has an interesting history according to West Fargo Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider, who started out as a firefighter in 1979, was hired on as a paid employee fire inspector in 1980 and was named chief in 1993, when Roger Olson stepped down.

He has been attending the party all those years, with the event held each year at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds and the last six years in conjunction with West Fest.

"When I first joined, the fire department operated strictly off of donations, and during the fall of every year we used to go around to citizens of the city and the rural areas the fire department protected and knock on doors to raise operating funds. That, plus the proceeds from the fireman's ball, for which we charged admission, were the only means of income the department had."

That continued for several years until the fire department operation became so large it couldn't run strictly off of donations anymore. Schatschneider said that's when talks began with the city asking them if they would contract for fire protection services. The city agreed and that was the point when two paid employees were finally hired and a budget was established to start replacing equipment. Eventually contracts were also established with other rural townships.

The ball continued to be held and to play a big role in the department's operation, with the funds now generated used mainly to help out the volunteers, i.e. purchase dress uniforms, fund the annual spring awards banquet and the annual fireman's picnic, and to purchase some of the training equipment used in the fire hall.

The ball was always held the Friday of fire prevention week for as long as Schatschneider can remember, but the date was changed to coincide with West Fest after Chamber officials made the request. "The community has a day set aside to celebrate our lifestyles around here and we thought moving our event to coincide would be a good way to carry our tradition through and help out." Schatschneider said this proved to be an excellent move - the dance continues to be very well received with an "outstanding attendance."

This year's event will get underway at 8 p.m. and run until midnight in the Commercial Building at the Fairgrounds, with local musical group Past Due providing the music. The dance is open to those 21 years of age and older. Those attending are welcome to take their own refreshments and food as none will be available. The charge is $5 per person. Tickets are available from any firefighter in advance or can be purchased at the door.

A passel of contributing businesses and sponsors help contribute annually to making the annual West Fest celebration the gigantic success that it is. Those businesses, sponsors and a complete run down of West Fest events appear in the special 'West Fest' section of today's publication, as well as in the West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce advertisement.

For more information about any of the West Fargo activities, visit the West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce Web site at