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Lisa Miller / Forum Communications Co., Published February 05 2011

North Dakota residents star in TV oil documentary

DICKINSON, N.D. – Dickinson resident Ken Weisenberger says Planet Green’s new TV show about the effect the North Dakota oil boom is having in the nearby town of Parshall is well worth tuning in for.

“Boomtown” airs Saturday nights.

“It chronicles the city of Parshall,” Weisenberger said. “It’s very interesting to see a North Dakota town on national TV – but it would have been nice if they would have included more of the state.”

Weisenberger said that though he hasn’t visited Parshall recently, the show seems to be very true to life.

“I started watching because the show is about oil activity in North Dakota, something many of us western North Dakotans have become very familiar with,” Weisenberger said.

Weisenberger said he is curious to see how others in North Dakota view the activity and the good and bad that come with it.

Parshall residents say “Boomtown” is not only a fairly accurate portrayal, but it’s entertaining, too.

“It is strange to see yourself or your neighbors on TV,” said Jeanette Cecil, owner of the Parshall Motor Inn Motel (one of the featured businesses). “But it is also fun and exciting!”

Cecil said she was skeptical of allowing the cameras into the town at first.

“All I could think about was the movie ‘Fargo’ and how they portrayed North Dakotans in that,” Cecil said. “I didn’t feel that it was very accurate and was apprehensive that this show would turn out the same way, but it hasn’t.”

Cecil said she later changed her mind about the cameras after talking more with the crew and her friends and neighbors.

“I have seen a few episodes of the show now, including the one we were featured in, and think they did a very nice job,” Cecil said. “They got a lot of different perspectives, both from people who are reaping the benefits of the oil boom and those who it just isn’t working out for.”

Parshall Promoters President Brent Wollschlager said he thinks the show is OK but added there are two sides to every story and the show is highly edited.

Parshall Promoters is a civic organization that works like a chamber of commerce; it promotes the town and economic development.

“I don’t think the oil boom or the new-found fame has changed the town,” Wollschlager said. “People’s spirits are higher, but we are the same friendly, faithful, good-hearted people we always have been.”

Wollschlager said he is most happy to see people who have never had anything finally have something good happen to them.

Parshall Mayor Richard Bolkan, who owns a grocery store, said he has gotten a lot of ribbing from residents about his new-found fame

“It’s all in fun,” Bolkan said. “The morale of the people has gotten so much better since the boom.”

Bolkan said he, too, was worried about what the show would be like but after seeing it said it is pretty good.

“It’s neat to see people I know on TV,” Bolkan said. “The oil boom has definitely had a positive effect on our town; we have a better city government that is more involved in the Legislature, and we have been able to make improvements to business in our area and even build a few new ones.”

Boomtown airs at 8 p.m. on Saturdays on Planet Green.


Lisa Miller writes for the Dickinson Press