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Fargo is the largest city in the U.S. state of North Dakotamarker and the county seat of Cass Countymarker. In 2008, its population was estimated at 99,200, and it had an estimated metropolitan population of 195,685. Fargo, along with its twin city of Moorhead, Minnesotamarker, as well as adjacent West Fargo, North Dakotamarker and Dilworth, Minnesotamarker, form the center of the Fargo-Moorhead, ND-MN Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The city of Fargo is the crossroads and economic center of a large portion of eastern North Dakota and a portion of northwestern Minnesotamarker. Fargo is a retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and educational hub for the region. Fargo is home to North Dakota State Universitymarker. The local newspaper is The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The city motto is "Gateway to the West". Fargo was founded in 1871.


Early history

The area that is present-day Fargo was an early stopping point for steamboats floating down the Red Rivermarker during the 1870s and 1880s. The city of Fargo was originally named "Centralia," but was later renamed to "Fargo" in honor of Northern Pacific Railway director and Wells Fargo Express Company founder William Fargo. Fargo was founded in 1871. The area started to flourish after the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the city became known as the "Gateway to the West".

During the 1880s, Fargo became the "divorce capital" of the Midwest due to very lenient divorce laws.

A major fire struck the city on June 7, 1893 when the proprietor of a grocery store accidentally started the blaze as she emptied ashes behind her store on a windy day. The fire destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses. However, Fargo was quickly rebuilt with new buildings made of brick, new streets, and a water system. The North Dakota State Agricultural College was founded in 1890 as North Dakotamarker's land-grant university, becoming first accredited by the North Central Association in 1915. In 1960, NDAC became known as North Dakota State Universitymarker.

The 20th century

1957 'F5' tornado as it approaches Hector International Airport.
Early in the century, the automobile industry flourished, and in 1905, Fargo was home to the Pence Automobile Company.

Fargo-Moorhead boomed after World War II and the city grew rapidly despite being hit by a violent tornado in 1957. The tornado destroyed a large portion of the north end of the city. Dr. Ted Fujita, famous for his fujita tornado scale, analyzed pictures of the Fargo tornado which helped him develop his idea's for "wall cloud" and "Tail cloud", these were the first major terms ever associated with tornadoes. [19387]The coming of the two interstates (I-29 and I-94) revolutionized travel in the region and pushed growth of Fargo to the south and west of the city limits. In 1972, the West Acres Shopping Center was constructed near the intersection of the two Interstates. This mall would become the catalyst for retail growth in the area. It would also spell the beginning of a time of decline for the downtown area of Fargo.

Recent history

Broadway at Main in the heart of Fargo

In recent years, Fargo has seen relatively strong growth both in population and economic activity. Several businesses now have major operations in the community including Microsoft, Navteqmarker and PRACS Institute. The city's major retail districts on the southwest side have seen rapid expansion as has the downtown area due, at least in part, to investments made by the city and private developers in the Renaissance Zone. City leaders would like to see an addition of five-hundred new housing units in the downtown area within the next five years. Planning agencies have also been active in promoting housing rehabilitation in older sections of the city such as the Roosevelt neighborhood to stem blight and strengthen the core of the city. Indeed, during the 1990s most inner city neighborhoods such as Hawthorne, Jefferson, and Horace Mann actually lost population even as rapid growth occurred along the edges of the city in sprawling new developments. As Fargo has grown and matured, however, the city has placed a growing emphasis on long-range urban planning. Furthermore, several developers desiring to bring in additional "big box" retail stores on the far south end of Fargo have been rebuffed by planning officials and nearby residents alike arguing that the developments do not conform to new long-range planning guidelines.

Since the late 1990s, the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Statistical Area has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates among MSAs in the United Statesmarker. This, coupled with Fargo's low crime rate and the decent supply of affordable housing in the community, has prompted Money magazine to rank the city near the top of its annual list of America's most livable cities throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Nevertheless, Fargo in the early 21st century faces some challenges. Articles published in the summer of 2006 by The Forum, have noted that the supply of affordable housing in the city is shrinking due to area wages and incomes not rising as fast as housing costs in the city. Moreover, research conducted by the North Dakota State Data Center and the U.S. Census Bureau document that the city's population growth may be stalling after decades of steady growth. The 2005 census estimates showed a decrease in the population of Fargo proper, albeit an increase in the metro area as a whole. These numbers, however, have been disputed by city officials as the Census Bureau in recent years has been faulted for significantly underestimating the population of some North Dakota cities. Richard Rathge, the state demographer, has warned that Fargo may very well be losing its primary pool of new migrants as outlying areas of North Dakota, traditionally the geographic area upon which Fargo draws for new migrants, have been rapidly declining in population for decades. Fargo has relied upon international migration for a large proportion of its new in-migration for the last two decades.

West Fargo has increasingly been capturing a substantial share of the new population growth in the metropolitan area. Furthermore, the town of Horace is also expanding rapidly. Indeed, annexation disputes between the three municipalities have become increasingly common during the last decade. The increased fragmentation of metropolitan area growth may spell some long term challenges for Fargo in that the city has been accustomed to simply expanding its tax- and population base by more or less annexing new areas of growth. Over the long term Fargo may be compelled to focus greater attention on redevelopment in existing areas. Indeed, downtown and areas adjacent to NDSU have already seen increased levels of redevelopment. The share of redevelopment to greenfield development, however, is still highly tilted to the latter.


American Elm trees in residential neighborhood of Fargo
Fargo is located at (46.871414, -96.808658). Fargo is a core city of the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area which also includes Moorhead, West Fargo, and Dilworth as well as outlying communities.

Fargo sits on the western bank of the Red River of the Northmarker in a very flat region known as the Red River Valley. The Red River Valley was once a part of glacial Lake Agassizmarker, which drained away about 9,300 years ago. The lake sediments deposited from Lake Agassiz made the land around Fargo some of the richest in the world for agricultural uses. Early settlers sometimes called the Red River Valley a new "Garden of Eden".

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 98.3 km² (37.9 mi²), all land.


Due to its location in the Great Plainsmarker and its distance from both mountains and oceans, the city has an extreme continental climate, and a USDA Plant Hardiness of Zone 4. The city is known for its long, cold and snowy winters. In sharp contrast summers are warm to hot, and often quite humid with frequent thunderstorms. Spring and autumn are short and highly variable seasons.


As of the census of 2000, there were 90,599 people, 39,268 households, and 20,724 families residing in the city. The population density was 922.0/km² (2,388.2/mi²). There were 41,200 housing units at an average density of 419.3/km² (1,086.0/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.17% White, 1.02% African American, 1.24% Native American, 1.64% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.44% from other races, and 1.45% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.29% of the population.

The top six ancestry groups in the city are German (40.6%), Norwegian (35.8%), Irish (8.6%), Swedish (6.5%), English (5.2%), French (4.7%).

There were 39,268 households out of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 41.8% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.2% were non-families. 34.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 19.2% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 100.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,510, and the median income for a family was $50,486. Males had a median income of $31,968 versus $22,264 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,101. About 6.6% of families and 11.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.8% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

As of the 2005-2007 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, White Americans made up 92.6% of Fargo's population. African Americans made up 2.2% of Fargo's population while American Indian made up 1.2% of the city's population. Asian Americans made 1.9% of Fargo's population while Pacific Islander Americans made up only 0.1% of the city's population. About 0.5% of Fargo's population are from some other race while 1.4% of the city's population are from two or more races. In addition, Hispanics and Latino made up 2.1% of Fargo's population.

In addition, the American Community Survey reports that German Americans now made up 44.1% of Fargo's population with Norwegian Americans making up 34.8% of the city's population. Irish Americans still stood at 8.6% of the city's populace while Swedish Americans still stood at 6.5% of the city's population. English Americans made up 5.4% of Fargo's population with French Americans making up 4.9% of the city's population.

Law and government

Cass County Courthouse
Fargo uses the city commission style of local government. Four commissioners and a mayor are elected at large. The current mayor of Fargo is Dennis Walaker, who was elected on June 13, 2006. The Fargo City Commission meets every two weeks in its chambers above the Fargo Civic Center. The meetings are broadcast on a local cable channel.

Although politically diverse, Fargo has a history as a Republican-leaning area. Democrats tend to do well in state elections in the older and established areas of Fargo (Districts 11 and 21), but Republicans dominate throughout much of the newer areas of the city. George W. Bush carried Fargo as well as the rest of Cass County in the 2004 presidential election, with nearly 60 percent of the vote in both areas. In 2008, Democratic candidate Barack Obama won the majority of votes in Cass County[19388], with a voting percentage very close to the percentage Obama received in the entire nation, while John McCain won the majority of votes in the entire state of North Dakota.

Although less Democratic-leaning than Grand Forks, Fargo is considerably more moderate/liberal than Bismarckmarker where Democrats hold only a single seat in the state senate. In the 2006 elections, several Fargo-area Republican incumbents to the state legislature were defeated.


The economy of the Fargo area has historically been dependent on agriculture. That dominance has decreased substantially in recent decades. Now, the city of Fargo has a growing economy based on food processing, manufacturing, technology, retail trade, higher education, and healthcare. The largest non-governmental employers in the city include MeritCare Health System, Innovis Health, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, US Bank, and Microsoft. North Dakota State Universitymarker is the largest public sector employer in the city.



Fargo North High School
The Fargo Public Schools system serves most of the city, operating fifteen elementary schools, three middle schools, three (soon to be four) high schools (Fargo North High School, Fargo South High School), Ronald Davies High School (to open 2011), and an alternative high school (Woodrow Wilson). South Fargo ninth graders are temporarily going to South Campus II (former Agassiz Middle School) until Ronald Davies High School is built in south Fargo.

The West Fargo Public Schools system serves most of the southwestern part of the city.

Fargo is also home to three private school districts. The Fargo Catholic Schools Network operates Holy Spirit Elementary (North), Nativity Elementary (South), Sullivan Middle School, and Shanley High Schoolmarker. The Oak Grove Lutheran School District serves grades Pre-K–12 in the area. Grace Lutheran School serves grades Pre-Kindergarten though 8th grade.

Higher education

Old Main on the Campus of North Dakota State University

Fargo is home to North Dakota State Universitymarker (NDSU) which has over 14,000 students. NDSU was founded in 1890 primarily as an agricultural school, but has since branched out to cover many other fields of study.

Fargo is also home to several private institutions, including Rasmussen College, a branch location of the University of Mary, and Masters Baptist College operated by Fargo Baptist Church. Until recently, Globe University/Minnesota School of Business maintained a Fargo Student Resource Center, now replaced by the college's Moorheadmarker campus.


Fargo offers a wide variety of cultural opportunities for a city of its size. This is likely due, in part, to the presence of three universities in the area. Most theatre and events are either promoted or produced by the universities, although there are several private theatre companies in the city including Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre (FMCT), Theatre 'B' in downtown Fargo, Ursa Major Productions, Music Theatre Fargo Moorhead, Tin Roof Theatre Company, The Entertainment Company and others. Music organizations in the area include the Fargo-Moorhead Opera, the Jazz Arts Group, the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, and the Fargo-Moorhead Youth Symphony. Fargo also boasts a dance company in the Fargo Moorhead Ballet.

The Fargo Theatre is a restored 1926 Art Deco movie house that features first-run movies, film festivals, and other community events. The Fargodomemarker routinely hosts concerts, Broadway musicalsmarker, dance performances, sporting events, as well as fairs and other gatherings.

The Winter Carnival in Fargo is a tradition that began in 1928. More information from public radio source [19389], more info from [19390].

The Plains Art Museum is the largest museum of art in the state. It is located in downtown Fargo and features regional and national exhibits. It also houses a large permanent collection of art. There are several other museums in Fargo including The Children's Museum at Yunker Farm [19391], The Fargo Air Museum, The Courthouse Museum, The Roger Maris Museum in West Acres Shopping Center, the North Dakota State Universitymarker Wall of Fame in the Scheels All Sports store and the historic Bonanzaville village (West Fargo).

The Fargo Public Library [19392] was established in 1900 and for many years was housed in a Carnegie-funded building. In 1968, the library moved into a new facility as part of urban renewal efforts in the downtown area. In 2002, the Fargo Public Library established the first branch library in North Dakota with the opening of the Southpointe Branch. In 2004, voters passed an 18-month sales tax measure for new library facilities with 62% of voters in favor. The new Northport Branch opened in 2006 and serves the north side of Fargo. The Dr. James Carlson Library, which replaced the earlier Southpointe Branch, opened to the public on November 16, 2007 and serves the south side of Fargo. The new main library downtown, designed by Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle ( see[19393]), opened April, 2009.


The Fargo Park District operates many neighborhood parks throughout the city. The Fargo area contains the following golf courses: Edgewood Golf Course (18-hole), Fargo Country Club (18-hole) Rose Creek Golf Course (18-hole), El Zagal (9-hole), Prairiewood Golf Course (9-hole), and the new Osgood Golf Course (9-hole). In the winter Edgewood serves as a warming house and rents skis out. Rose Creek and Osgood golf courses offer golfing lessons in the summer months. Fargo also has a skate park located near dike west and Island park.


Sister cities

Fargo has two sister cities:
Hamarmarker, Norwaymarker
Vimmerbymarker, Swedenmarker


See also: Fargo-Moorhead media for a list of newspapers, radio stations, television stations, yellow page directories, and more...
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead is the city's major newspaper. The High Plains Reader, an independent weekly tabloid, also operates in the community. North Dakota State University's student paper, The Spectrum, is printed twice weekly during the academic year. The city is also served by other publications such as OPEN Magazine, Area Woman, From House To Home, Bison Illustrated and Valley Faith.

Fargo is also home to several radio and television stations. Forum Communications, which also owns The Forum, owns WDAY-TVmarker and WDAY radio. Local resident James Ingstad owns six radio stations under Radio Fargo-Moorhead, Inc., including KFGO. SMAHH Communications owns WZFG and KEGK. GoRadio, a division of Triad Broadcasting, owns Froggy 99.9, 107.9 The Fox, FM 105.1, Q98 and 1660 ESPN Radio

Fargo television also includes KVLY-TVmarker (NBC), KXJBmarker (CBS), and KFME (PBS), which also is home base for Prairie Public Television. Cable television service is provided by Cable One.

Fargo's has 4 local yellow pages publishers. SMARTSEARCH, which is locally owned and operated; yellowbook, owned by the Yell Group, a foreign United Kingdom based company; Dex, owned by RH Donnelley and based in North Carolina; and Phone Directories Company (PDC), based in Utah.


Fargo is a major transportation hub for the surrounding region. It sits at the crossroads of two major interstate highways and is the home of a major airport.

Fargo is served by Hector International Airportmarker. Hector has the longest public runway in the state and scheduled passenger flights to Minneapolismarker, Chicagomarker, Denvermarker, Las Vegasmarker, Mesamarker, Los Angelesmarker, Orlandomarker and Salt Lake Citymarker. The city is served by Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Express, Frontier Airlines, and Allegiant Air. An Air National Guard unit and the Fixed-Base Operation Fargo Jet Center are located at Hector.

The BNSF Railway runs through the metropolitan area as successor to the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railroad. Amtrak service is provided via the Empire Builder passenger train at the Fargo Amtrak stationmarker.

The city sits at the intersection of Interstate 29 and Interstate 94. U.S. Highway 81 and U.S. Highway 10 also run through the community. Some other major roadways in the city include 45th St., 32nd Ave. S, 13th Ave. S, Main Ave. and University Drive.

A public bus service named Fargo Moorhead Metro Area Transit (MAT) operates several routes. Greyhound Lines, Jefferson Lines and Rimrock Stages Trailways bus services also link Fargo to other communities.

The street system of Fargo is structured in the classic grid pattern. Routes that run from north to south are called streets, and routes that run from east to west are called avenues.

Sites of interest

Arenas and auditoriums

The Fargodome
Fargo Civic Center
  • Fargodomemarker - (1800 North University Drive) An indoor arena located on the NDSUmarker campus. It plays host to all NDSU home football games and is also used for concerts and trade shows. This is also where the high school wrestling national freestyle and Greco-Roman championships take place every year
  • Reineke Fine Arts Center [19394] - (12th Avenue North and Bolley Drive) Located on the NDSU campus. The University uses the center for concerts, theatrical presentations, and other events.
  • Fargo Civic Center - (207 4th Street North) An indoor arena used to host trade shows, sporting events, meetings, community events, concerts, and disaster relief.
  • John E. Carlson Coliseum - (807 17th Avenue North) This arena is host to the Fargo North High School and Fargo South High School hockey teams as well as the FM Jets hockey team, before the team left Fargo. The arena was built in 1968 and has previously been home to the Fargo Blazers and NDSU Club hockey teams. The arena is also for figure skating. The Coliseum hosts the largest squirt hockey tournament in the world, the Fargo Flyers Squirt International Hockey Tournament.
  • Urban Plains Centermarker [19395] - On June 27, 2007, Fargo held a groundbreaking for the Urban Plains Center ice hockey arena. The $44 million arena, currently under construction, is located in south Fargo, its first event was the Fargo Force Hockey home game on Thursday, October 30, 2008. The arena will be used for a USHL team, Fargo Force, Fargo high school hockey, and many other special events.


  • Bonanzaville, USA - (1351 Main Avenue, West Fargomarker) A village made up of many historic buildings from the region. Includes a church, school building, and log cabins. It is named after the historic bonanza farms of the area.
  • The Children's Museum at Yunker Farm [19396] - (1201 28th Avenue North) Provides many exhibits and hands-on participation for children.
  • Fargo Air Museum - (1609 19th Avenue North) Features aircraft from World War II and beyond. Also hosts traveling exhibits.
  • Plains Art Museummarker - (704 1st Avenue North) A large art museum located in a historic downtown building. Features regional and national exhibits.
  • The Roger Maris Museum - (West Acres Shopping Center) A small museum dedicated to Roger Maris located in a wing of the mall. Features memorabilia and a video presentation about the New York Yankees player who lived in Fargo for a portion of his life.
  • Hjemkomst Center - (Downtown at 202 1st Ave. N, Moorhead MN) Displays and interprets the Hjemkmost replica Viking ship that was sailed to Norway. Also home of the Clay County Historical Society museum and archives.


  • Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre [19397] - (333 4th Street South) FMCT presents comedies, dramas, youth shows, and musicals in a theatre located in Island Park south of downtown.
  • Fargo Theatre - (314 Broadway) A 1926 Art Deco movie theatre. Presents films (classic and current), live productions, and other events.
  • Main Avenue Theatre - (716 Main Avenue) Hosts live productions by local independent theater company Theatre B.
  • Trollwood Performing Arts School - Trollwood Performing Arts School is a summer theatre arts program for students of all ages. The school presents many different forms of performing arts every summer, the most prominent being a Broadway musical performed in front of up to 2,500 audience members per night at an outdoor amphitheatre. The school is noted for its numerous national arts awards.
  • Gooseberry Park Players - the Gooseberry Park Players are a not-for profit, fee-free theatre company for individuals 11-18 years old. Every summer in late July, they present a show at the Frances Frazier Comstock Theatre on the campus of Concordia College.

Miscellaneous attractions

Notable residents

In popular culture

Fargo is an Academy Award winning 1996 film starring Frances McDormand and William H. Macy and directed and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen. The film is named after the city which is only seen briefly at the film's opening scene set in a bar and mentioned a total of twice in the film. None of Fargo was shot on location in or near Fargo (the establishing shot noted in the movie as Fargo was instead filmed in northeast Minneapolismarker). The majority of the movie was filmed in Minneapolis and the local areas around Grand Forks, North Dakotamarker, which served as a substitute for Brainerd, Minnesotamarker due to mild Minnesota weather during production. According to an interview with Charlie Rose on the Special Edition DVD, the Coen's claim they actually titled the movie Fargo because it sounded more interesting than "Brainerd".

See also


External links

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