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John Lamb, Published December 31 2010

Donors keep lights on at Fargo Theatre

Bad weather closed the Fargo Theatre on Thursday night, but the generosity of fans made sure its lights will stay on.

Supporters of the downtown landmark donated more than $31,000 after Executive Director Margie Bailly said she would turn off the colorful marquee on New Year’s Eve if they couldn’t raise that much.

The campaign to raise $31,000 by Dec. 31 – dubbed 31x31 – raised money for bills. Bailly said donations to the organization this year were way down and a membership drive fell more than $20,000 short of its $50,000 goal and that the shortfalls led to cash-flow issues.

“It would be a shame to turn that off. It provides brilliance and vibrancy in the evenings, particularly in winter,” Mike Hahn, president/CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership said when the campaign rolled out.

But after word spread in mid-December that the Fargo would turn out its outside lights, film fans opened their wallets.

Bailly would not say how much was raised because she wanted to reveal the final tally at today’s New Year’s at Noon celebration. She said they passed their goal by mid-Wednesday.

She did say that more than 190 donations were received, most from people who are not members of the Fargo Theatre.

More than a third of the donations were under $100. The biggest was a $2,500 donation, Bailly said.

She added that some took the 31 x 31 theme literally and gave $31.31.

Two groups, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1426 and the Dakota Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, asked the theater to tally what it cost to keep the sign lit annually. After Bailly said the bill was $1,872, the groups responded with a donation of $2,000.

Bailly thought the $31,000 goal was “reasonable.”

“In my heart I thought we’d get it, but I was really surprised that we passed it,” Bailly said Thursday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533