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Published October 01 2010

South seniors add Mystery to tradition

A 1990 Plymouth Voyager van usually doesn’t turn a lot of heads.

Then again, most of them aren’t decked out to look like the Mystery Machine from the classic “Scooby-Doo” cartoon.

The Mystery Machine that Noah Cook and several of his Fargo South High School classmates created draws attention everywhere they go, said the Fargo South senior as he stood in the high school’s south parking lot.

The vehicular getup is all part of tradition at South High. For years, senior students have decorated automobiles in wild and creative ways as part of the homecoming festivities.

“It’s kind of just what you do,” says Jennie Albright, 17, who’s among the students who’ll be taking the van to the Fargodome for tonight’s homecoming football game against West Fargo.

True to tradition, an entire section of the Fargo South parking lot looked like something of a shrine to car decoration Thursday morning.

Among the creations was a GMC Vandura 2500 van that was painted gold and black and was fit with a basketball hoop and disco ball.

Scott Krabbenhoff says he’s been getting up early in the morning to cruise in it before school.

“You only get to do this once in a lifetime,” he says.

Nearby, a pink van is covered in black letters spelling out the words “Come on Barbie” and “Let’s go party,” an homage to the ’90s pop music hit “Barbie Girl.” Several windows of the van were outlined with black feather boas.

Elsewhere, the front end of one pickup truck was outfitted to look like a bear, complete with teeth.

The tradition isn’t school sponsored, but Head Principal Todd Bertsch says the homecoming-mobiles “seem to resurface every year.”

In fact, he’s been in his current position for seven years and says they’ve been around for as long as he has.

The tradition may be old, but the Mystery Mobile is a relatively new creation. Cook and friends went in together to purchase the minivan for $400 Saturday. The students then proceeded to decorate it in the distinctive scheme of green, turquoise and bright orange, using interior house paint to get the job done.

“I don’t know how many times we went to Walmart for this thing,” says Tom Grotenhuis, 17, who’s also in on the project.

They added hippie-style flowers and paw prints, transforming it into a rough-but-reasonable facsimile of the van driven by “those meddling kids.”

The Mystery Machine is “just so iconic” that everyone knows what it is right away, Cook says.

Of course, for $400, it’s not a fancy ride. The turn signals didn’t seem to blink. The air conditioning wasn’t working. The windshield was cracked. And it had all the pep of a glacier.

“I’m surprised the radio’s worked so long,” Albright said at one point, noting that it has a habit of cutting out.

But the hooptie-like qualities of the van just seem to make it that much more fun. And having fun is what it’s all about – along with a little sickness, apparently.

At one point while driving through downtown Fargo, someone in the van directed attention to the Mystery Machine’s reflection in some window’s downtown. A voice from behind called out enthusiastically, “That looks so sick!”

It was meant in the best possible sense of the word.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734