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Published September 19 2010

Crowds, cars and candy: Spectators turn out for West Fest parade

In one of the twin ribbons of spectators lining the West Fest parade route Saturday, Robert Byrne was multitasking.

He played sidekick on his 3-year-old grand-niece Hannah’s quest for candy off Sheyenne Street. A West Fargo resident of more than six decades, he collected hugs from a stream of parade participants. And he tried to listen to the Minnesota Twins game on his headphones, but he’d long lost track of the score.

“It’s hard,” Byrne said. “There’s too much commotion.”

Indeed, the parade at West Fest – an annual celebration of the city in its 19th edition – was a raucous affair. Some spectators claimed spots along the route by setting up lawn chairs early that morning. Participants had inquired about registration as early as March.

The turnout on a gorgeous Saturday echoed the event’s motto: “City on the grow.” Byrne, a custodian at South Elementary, marveled at the one-and-a-half-hour-long procession of floats, some for new businesses he hadn’t heard of: “It’s nice to see West Fargo has grown so much.”

Julie Yourczek, communications and events coordinator for the West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, estimated the size of the crowd at 12,000 to 15,000.

“We have more and more people coming down,” she said. “New businesses hear we have a big crowd, and they want to get their name out there.”

More than 140 floats took part, compared to last year’s 130. There were classic cars, late-model sports cars, golf carts, oil trucks and tractors. There were square dancers, cheerleaders, pageant queens, church singers, gymnasts and bikers.

About 20 students from the Northwest Martial Arts Academy showed off taekwondo moves. Northwest opened a branch in West Fargo four years ago, and its students have become known as “the karate guys” at West Fest parades.

The group ran out of the 40 pounds of candy they brought along halfway through the parade.

“This parade has gotten really big,” said owner and chief instructor Chris Kalsow. “The atmosphere is really upbeat. Everyone’s cheering, and everyone ‘s happy.”

Brennan Byrne, Robert’s great-nephew, also noticed a jump in the number of trucks and the amount of candy this year – his two favorite things about West Fest. A couple of years ago, the fourth-grader got to ride on a West Fargo Packers bus in the parade.

“You can see all your friends in the crowd,” he said. “But you don’t get the candy.”

Angela Ridl attended the parade her 15-month-old daughter, Daisy. It was Ridl’s first time at the parade since high school, when she came out for the street dances right on Sheyenne. They were much better than school dances: no chaperones and rock music “way into the night.”

Daisy brought her back.

“It’s more of a kids’ event,” Ridl said. “It’s very family-oriented.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529