Letter to the editor

Vince Azzarello, Contributing Writer

This is a fun response to the opinion article written by Jill Morton, found on the Dakota Student website published on September 15, 2017.


Good morning to you.  My name is Vince Azzarello, and I’m the Marketing Director for the North Dakota State Fair.  A Google Alert for “State Fair” pointed me towards your article, where you claim our friends to the east in Minnesota are better off than those of us in the great state of North Dakota.  I hope you don’t mind if I take a few minutes to respectfully stick up for the Peace Garden State.

Let me begin by saying I am not a North Dakota native.  I was born in Ohio, and have lived everywhere from Indiana to Oregon.  I’ve had the privilege of calling North Dakota my home for the past 7 years.  It’s true that many kids who dream underneath a starry North Dakota sky wish that someday they’ll live in the big cities of Minnesota.  Minnesota is an upwardly-mobile place, for those who enjoy Uber and food bloggers.  North Dakota has a different style, a different pace, a different atmosphere.

You’re absolutely right about North Dakota sunsets!  Throughout my travels I’ve never seen the shades of pink, purple, orange, and red that I’ve seen as the sun goes down on North Dakota.  Speaking of the sun, I had never even heard of a sun dog, let alone seen one, until I had moved to Minot 7 years ago.  You speak of the lakes in Minnesota, which is very true, they have tons of them.  But North Dakota happens to be the home of the third largest reservoir in the country, featuring 1,530 miles of shoreline.  Lake Sakakawea is a magnificent body of water, giving North Dakotans a place to fish, boat, and camp since it was created in 1956.  Other lakes dot the landscape, like Devils Lake and Lake Darling.  Speaking of outdoors, let’s not forget some of our amazing National Parks.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an amazing place to experience many unique facets of nature, the badlands.  With each season the badlands put on a new look, making Theodore Roosevelt National Park something to experience in every season.  Let’s not forget about Medora, one of North Dakota’s most popular attractions, featuring a fun look at the old west that all ages can enjoy.

As far as State Fair’s go, I may be a little biased.  Yes, the Minnesota State Fair on average sees just shy of 2 million attendees each year.  But when compared to the population, the percentages favor North Dakota!  The North Dakota State Fair, 9 days of amazing rides, shows, rodeos, food, and fun, will welcome on average 300,000 guests each year, which comes out to just shy of 40% of the total population of the state.  Per capita that beats Minnesota by 4%.  The North Dakota State Fair is a point of pride for many North Dakotans, and we show that in our support of 4-H and FFA students, giving them a place to present their livestock, plants, and other achievements they’ve been tirelessly working on all year long.  SmartAsset.com has named the North Dakota State Fair one of the top 3 Fairs in the nation this year.

When I first moved to North Dakota, I too thought that this state might leave me wanting a little more.  I searched out every attraction, large and small, that I could find just within 2 hours of Minot.  What I found was a deep understanding of what makes North Dakota great: a rich history with a proud people, monuments that most people have never heard of, the best fishing and hunting you’ll find anywhere, and towns that truly care about the people they share this great state with.

I could go on about the David Thompson monument, the Dicken’s Festival in Garrison, disc golf in Bismarck, concerts in Fargo, the International Peace Gardens in Dunseith, and the World’s Largest Historical Quilt in Antler, but I think it’s best to let you discover them on your own.  That’s my challenge to you Jill: while you call North Dakota your home, travel, explore, and discover what is hiding beneath the surface.  I simply started out with a road trip to a roadside attraction.  That’s a great place to start!

Vince Azzarello, contributing writer