Click-clacks on the tracks

By Kelsie O’Keefe
Mass Comm. Major
Photos by Sadie Jones

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. The incessant sound invokes eye rolls, head shakes, curse words and u-turns.

Eighty trains pass through downtown FM every day. That’s over three trains an hour or approximately one train every 18 minutes.

The ding, ding, dinging quickly becomes as bad as the beep of an alarm clock.

What I often forget to consider as I sit and huff about the wait, is that the very history of Fargo-Moorhead began with the trains that are causing the delay. In reality, these railroads have played an unparalleled role in the development of the FM and surrounding areas.

History

The first settlers began staking out area homestead claims in 1871 in expectation of the point where the Northern Pacific Railroad would cross the Red River. NP Railroad completed the bridge from what was originally Centralia and into Moorhead in 1872, continuing westward.

A year later, Centralia was renamed Fargo after William G. Fargo, a director of the NP Railroad and co-founder of the Wells Fargo Express Company. Moorhead was likewise named after NP director William G. Moorhead. It wasn’t until a year after Fargo established a train station that it officially became a city in 1875.

Waiting for crossing trains is just a part of FM life rolling on as it does and has always done. If it weren’t for the railroad Fargo-Moorhead literally wouldn’t be Fargo-Moorhead.

Graffiti

History aside, when on Broadway on the wrong side of a passing train and all I can do is put my car in park and wait to get on with the day, if nothing else, I try to see it as a chance to lean back in my seat, maybe roll the window down and listen to the dull roar of the passing cars as they present a rolling art show.

Sure the monotonous tags of Q Ball, DJ Eezy and Skiz8ter get old, but every now and again something magical flies by on the row of steel canvas and you don’t want to miss it. Like the years, days, hours, minutes of our busy lives. You can’t rush through them.

It’s like slideshow saying, “Hey. Stop. Here’s a mandatory minute to relax, slow down and appreciate the small things.” So that’s exactly what I do because whining won’t make the cars go past faster just like it won’t make the world spin any slower. I lean back in my seat and let my mind wander.

Traveling thoughts

As the steel cars roll through they take my thoughts with them, beyond the valley and toward the coasts to the various cities I envision their art work originates. I imagine overdramatized criminals of the streets with spray cans waiting for night so they can swarm out and tag their steel canvas, fighting for open spaces of clean, cool metal, their name destined to tread more miles than their bodies ever will.

To the average person a train car represents time wasted waiting, but to them it represents a creative outlet temporarily forged to take a part of them away. During the day they deal with bosses’ orders and customer complaints but at night they create massive murals of raw talent that art school students couldn’t touch. And as I’m imagining where they are they’re imagining where their art work is and it gets them through the work day.

Why didn’t these talented artists go to college? I suppose it wouldn’t give them an adrenaline rush like the illegal act of what is considered vandalism. But with a college degree and that kind of talent and determination, they too could go places and have their names read on more than just a box car. And sure it’s illegal but it’s way better than looking at blank box cars. I would say they’re doing the nation a favor, really. They’re doing me a favor anyway, because by the time these thoughts have crossed through my brain so has the train.

So as the red lights flash, the cross arms descend and the ding, ding, ding, ding of the train signal sounds in my ear, I’ll put my vehicle in park and take a moment in the day to pause, gander at the origin of my city and watch Skiz8ter’s name travel across the Midwestern plains.

Moorhead celebrates cultures

A commentary

Story and photos by Sarah Bauman
MSUM mass comm major

When thinking of the Fargo-Moorhead area, diversity might not be the first thing that comes to mind.  But last Saturday, the many cultures that call this area home were showcased at Pangea, a cultural celebration that takes place every November at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.  Music, dancing, fashions, food and art were featured at the celebration, now in its sixth year.  Pangea takes place the second Saturday of November each year.

Visit the Hjemkomst Center’s website here

Woven bowls from Africa

Ebony nativity set from Tanzania

Carvings and bronze work from Sri Lanka

Traditional clothing impresses the crowd

Standing room only at the fashion show

A fashion show featured traditional clothing from Native American, Indian and Mexican cultures.  The Native American Fancy Dance and Jingle Dress regalia were featured, among others.  The vivid colors, dancing feathers and flowing fringe of the Fancy Dance regalia seemed to beg to be shown off, and the beautiful craftsmanship and detail were stunning.  The Jingle Dress made music with every movement and its shiny fabric appeared to be lit up by stage lights.  I wanted to see these wearable works of art in action.

A dance for every occasion

The traditional Mexican dresses were full and flowing, creating beautiful arcs of fabric when the dancers twirled.  The vibrant colors and lace and embroidery details added to the richness of the material, and the shiny ribbons circling the skirts created swirls of color.

Click to watch Mexican dance

The Indian dances were exciting and exotic.  I enjoyed the way they fused traditional dance and modern music, and the colors of their dress were rich and bold.  I was impressed with the age range of the dancers, all of whom looked so happy to be dancing for the crowd.

Click to watch Indian dance

YOSAKOI, the dance team from MSUM’s Japan Club, also performed several dances.  The music was exciting, and the dances matched the energy of the songs.  The crowd really enjoyed these dances, clapping along with the music.

For information about MSUM’s Japan Club, visit their website here

Click to watch Japanese dance

Each dance told a story through movement and it was fascinating to see the different ways the cultures conveyed emotion.  The unique beauty of each culture was stunning.  I was amazed at the artistry in every garment and movement, and thrilled that the Pangea event takes place every year to let these groups shine.

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Swing Dancers Feel the Rhythm

Photos by Amita Manandhar

Dancing these days brings to mind concert halls, mosh pits or high school dances but every Tuesday night in downtown Fargo, a different kind of dancing takes place.

At the Avalon a mixture of age groups comes together to swing dance. A fun and relaxing way to meet new people, the swing classes are for anyone who wants to attend, no experience necessary. The night starts with lessons and then moves to an open dance where anyone can practice their moves.

Information

  • Located at 613 1st Ave N, Fargo
  • $7 per person, $5 with student ID
  • 8:30 p.m. lesson begins
  • 9:30 p.m. open dance begins
  • Every Tuesday

Entrance into the Avalon ballroom.

Lessons for beginners are easy to learn

The lessons teach basic moves and sequences a person can follow. Men typically lead and women anticipate their dance partner’s moves. Dancers keep their knees bent and their bodies need to be able to twist and turn at any time, said Katherine Noone.

Instructors John and Katherine Noone teach basic steps at the lesson, such as the rock step and how to twirl and be twirled. They then build on those steps until the group has a sequence to dance to.

Dancers laugh while learning a new move.

Newcomers are always welcome

The atmosphere of the ballroom puts newcomers at ease. The dancers are all courteous to one another and it is rare that a person refuses a dance. “It’s not like going to the club,” said John. “If you come here and you ask somebody to dance, they will say yes. They just will.”

People from different age groups with different amounts of experience come to enjoy swing dancing.

People meet at the Avalon and become friends. “It’s a great way to meet people,” said Sara Downey, an MSUM student who comes for the social aspect. Some people come in groups while others come simply to share the experience of dancing.

Dance with everyone to learn

Experienced dancers teach those with less experience. Since few people will refuse a dance, people with different levels of experience dance together. “A lot of what swing dancing is all about is the confidence,” said John. “You have to get to a point where you feel like you know how to do this.”

Someone teaches a step to a less experienced dancer.

Confidence is key to swing dancing and practice makes perfect. Watching the dance floor, some partners slowly dance while others whirl. Some take the time to show the basic steps to those who aren’t completely comfortable dancing. “It’s still a challenge trying to teach each other and learn moves off each other,” said Downey.

Swing poses some risks

Swing dance does have some risks. “You can get hurt,” said John. The Avalon’s pillars dot the dance floor and there are other people to run into, he said. Swing dance can be very safe as long as the dancers practice floor management. Floor management is the technique of being aware of where a dancer is in relation to other people and objects. That should not stop people from having fun. “I’ve danced with a broken collar bone,” said John. Accidents happen so dancers need to be aware of their surroundings in order to keep safe.

Health benefits encourage dancers

Any person can swing dance and it does provide a workout for dancers. “It’s good exercise,” Katherine said. A song typically lasts anywhere from two to five minutes and the beat varies with each song.

“Especially if it’s a fast song, there is definitely a calf workout. It’s a pretty engaging activity,” said Eddie Bjorgum, a Concordia student who has gone swing dancing on and off for two years. Some moves require a certain amount of flexibility but there are ways to work around them, John said.

During the open dance, everyone is encouraged to have fun and try new steps.

Music battle still waged

The swing dance music ready to be played.

Music is very important to swing dancing but there is a debate to what swing music actually is. Swing music is typically big band jazz but earlier rock ‘n’ roll music can also be danced to. The main thing is the beat, said John. A big band usually plays the last Tuesday of every month and the next live big band will come Nov. 9, Katherine said. Rock ‘n roll and big band jazz are typically what is played.

John Noone adjusts the music volume.

Social aspect draws large crowd

The amount of people and the age range of those participants is astounding. Anywhere from 60 to 100 people will show up for the open dance, and that number grows when a live big band plays, said Katherine. There is a wide age range of people present. The largest demography is college students. “I would say 80 percent are college age between 19-26,” said John. The rest is made up of a few high-schoolers and older people. Bjorum said he met some of his friends at the Avalon so age does not interfere with having fun.

The swing dancing participants did a group dance. Almost all the dancers danced to this song.

Instructors have an apparent love of swing dancing

These class have taken place for seven years at the Avalon in Fargo. “Seven years ago was our first lesson here,” said John. The Old Broadway stopped hosting the swing dance and so I picked it up, he said. Noone likes the music as it gives him a break from his normal week. It’s good for the body and provides social interaction and it’s why I do it every Tuesday, said Katherine.

Participants leave after the dance ended.

Saint John’s Bible comes to Moorhead

By Nicholas Barth
MSUM Journalism

500 years in the making
For the first time in 500 years, an art is being brought to life and prints of it can be seen right here in downtown Moorhead at the Hjemkomst Center. The Saint John’s Bible, hand-written version, is being brought to the Heimkomst Center.

One of the hand drawn pages of the Saint John's Bible at the Hjemkomst Center. Photo by Nicholas Barth

Bringing an exhibit from 159 miles away made Maureen Kelly Johnson, executive director of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, skeptical at first. However, after hearing about it from Joyce Pettinger, a volunteer at the Hjemkomst Center, she was curious.

Visitors sit back to rest after watching the exhibition. Photo by Amita Manandhar

Bringing the Bible to Moorhead

When Johnson went to Collegeville, Minn., to the Saint John’s Abbey where the Bible will be housed, she was hooked. While there, she learned many facts about this gigantic undertaking. Donald Jackson of Wales, is the head calligrapher for the Saint John’s Bible. To create it, he actually invented his own font which he then taught to his staff.  Each page of the Bible takes 8–13 hours to complete. Work on the Bible began in 1998 and is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

Photo by Amita Manandhar

Only 25 prints to be made

Brianne Carlsrud, marketing coordinator of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, said that it didn’t cost much money to bring the 25 prints to Moorhead. Johnson said that the certain prints were selected by Saint John’s Abbey to reflect the scope of the entire Bible.

Photo by Amita Manandhar

Don’t wait too long

The exhibit is there through Dec. 27. With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming, it is best to see it soon before the rush of the holiday season.

The hours of the exhibit are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Photo by Amita Manandhar

You can learn more about the Saint John’s Bible at saintjohnsbible.org.
Visit hcscconline.org to learn more about the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.

A visitor watches the St John's exhibition. Photo by Amita Manandhar

Photo by Amita Manandhar

Downtown is for the dogs…and cats

Story and photos by Sarah Bauman
MSUM mass comm major

Downtown is a destination for shoppers, with specialty boutiques and independently owned stores offing unique items.  To some, however, visiting downtown is all about seeing old friends.

But it’s not humans these shoppers come to see.  Three local businesses have attracted a following because of their resident pets.

O’Day Cache, Scan Design and Lena K all have customers regularly coming to visit the pets who come to work every day with their owners.

Chloe

Chloe sits in her favorite spot at O'Day Cache

Chloe is a nine-year-old Persian-barn cat mix who has made her home in O’Day Cache for over two years.  The family pet of the O’Days, Chloe has become a downtown favorite.  Teresa O’Day, daughter of store owner Cindy O’Day, said many people come in just to visit Chloe.

O'Day Cache is located at 317 N. Broadway, Fargo

Some of those visitors bring gifts for the cat.  Catnip toys, a cat bed and her very own portrait are just a few of the items Chloe has received over the years.  Local artist Rando was commissioned by a customer to create a painting of Chloe.  It rests proudly against the wall next to the cash register.

Visit Rando’s website here

Rando's painting of Chloe

Visit O’Day Cache’s website here

Cosmo

Cosmo is a four-year-old black lab-golden retriever mix who has been coming to Scan Design with Mary Cantrell since she was a puppy.  People are always happy to see Cosmo, said Cantrell, and are disappointed if she’s not there when they stop in.

Scan Design is located at 110 N. Broadway, Fargo

“She has the best mailman,” said Cantrell.  Cosmo gets a treat from the mailman almost every day.

Cosmo loves greeting customers but shies away from people in big hats or dark sunglasses.  She likes to see people’s faces, said Cantrell.

Cosmo patiently waits for a treat

Visit Scan Design’s website here

Oliver

Oliver is a four-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who spends his days at Lena K with owner Karissa Newby.  Shy and sleepy, Oliver approaches new people carefully but with his tail wagging.  “There’s not a mean bone in his body,” said Newby.

Lena K is located at 408 N. Broadway, Fargo

Everyone loves seeing Oliver, Newby said, and customers and the mailman bring treats for him as well.  If a different person brings the mail, Oliver gets very sad, said Newby.

Customers sometimes invite Oliver into the dressing rooms at Lena K, but he waits outside until the curtain is shut, then sneaks in.  He also loves giving customers kisses, said Newby.

Oliver quietly watches customers shopping

Visit  Lena K’s website here

Pets are always welcome

All three pet owners said customers often bring their own pets into the stores, and very few people have had anything negative to say about the animals.  You wouldn’t find these pets in mall stores, but you wouldn’t find these stores anywhere else, either.  Chloe, Cosmo and Oliver are like mascots, welcoming people to the casual, friendly atmosphere of downtown.

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The Dirty Hurlers A Pub Hit

Story by Mark Matsuura.

MSUM Mass comm major.

The Dirty Hurlers played to a typical crowd at the VFW in downtown Fargo on the Friday of Halloween weekend. Packed due to the party atmosphere of the weekend and no cover charge that night, the Hurlers played a humorous and entertaining show. Taking the stage around 10 p.m. the audience was already growing.

Ben and John perform at the VFW during Halloween weekend.

The Crowd Digs The Hurlers

The crowd ranged from your regular college students to older folks all enjoying the live music. With a crowd of 75 or more packed in the small area in front of the stage it was a good showing for the VFW.  Crowd involvement is a big part of the Dirty Hurler’s show, lead singer John Rian would often yell for the onlookers to clap along and be part of the show. Rarely some people would gather enough courage to go and dance right next to the stage for a song or two.

Tyler Hamre plays mandolin during the Dirty Hurlers' most recent live show.

Hurlers Have Humor

The Dirty Hurlers’ humor really shines during their performances, commenting on people in the crowd and entertaining people who approach the stage as they perform. Even firing back a witty comment after, of course, someone was yelling for the band to play free bird from the back. More than once someone from the crowd interacted with John Rian or Ben Revier as they sang during the set, shaking hands or clinking beers. The whole show featured small talk between songs mostly between the two singers John Rian and Ben Revier, often selling their first CD to the crowd.

John Rian sings during the Dirty Hurlers' live performance at the VFW downtown.

Band and Fan Interaction

The sets lasted around an hour each playing from around 10 p.m. until bar close that night. They were the only band playing that night and were featured on many signs around the bar advertising live music all weekend. The few breaks the Dirty Hurlers took you could find them spending time in the crowd talking to friends and anyone who wanted to chat. The band is really accessible to talk to for anyone attending.

The beer and drinking fueled singing, dancing and clapping is nothing new for the VFW. But the Dirty Hurlers, as always, brought their own unique Irish pub band style to the downtown bar and didn’t disappoint.

Check out their webpages on Myspace and Facebook:

http://www.myspace.com/thedirtyhurlers

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dirty-Hurlers/23196901528

Previously article about the Hurlers’:

http://doingitdt.areavoices.com/2010/10/27/bringing-pub-music-to-fargo/