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Helmut Schmidt, Published December 25 2011

It’s hard to be humble when you’re from Fargo: City, state popular among listmakers in 2011

FARGO - Who knew that a place with some of the crummiest winter weather in the country could be so hip, so financially with it, so very cool (in a chic, lightly frost-nipped way)?

For those not affected by rampaging rivers or hypothermia, 2011 was a good year to be a Fargoan, or a North Dakotan in general.

List after list generated by magazines and websites put Fargo and the Peace Garden State near the top in the U.S. for financial stability, employment and places to get royally schnockered while rebuilding the shattered ruins of your life.


One of the biggest honors of the year was claiming the crown of “America’s Toughest Weather City,” handed out by The Weather Channel on April Fools’ Day.

Fargo topped a 64-city draw, beating out weather heavyweights like Grand Rapids and Marquette, Mich.; International Falls, Minn.; Minneapolis; and Juneau, Alaska.

Bradford, Pa., didn’t have a chance in the final. Not when you have thundersnow and the annual flood-pocalypse on your side.

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast figures North Dakota’s Grand Forks, Bismarck and Fargo are the Nos. 2, 3, and 4 coldest cities in the United States, respectfully.

Despite that, Fargo was named No. 2 among the Top 10 Winter Cities by Liveability.com, a national website that highlights more than 500 of America’s best places to live.

Fargo was chosen because we’re friendly (our grins are frozen from Nov. 1 to March 31) and we are adapted to winter.

Only Anchorage, Alaska, beat us among winter cities. They should be defrosted by June.

Not surprisingly, Fargo is also a secure place to be.

Sperling’s BestPlaces puts Fargo as a solid No. 3 for midsize cities in terms of security.

That takes into account crime statistics, extreme weather, natural disasters, foreclosures, mortality rates, traffic accidents and other stuff that, if you really worried about it, you wouldn’t walk out your front door.

Keep this in mind: Thirty below keeps the riff-raff out.

The fat of the land

Liveability.com also loves Fargo in two more areas:

Fargo is listed as the No. 10 best college town in the nation. (Go Bison! Go Dragons! Go Cobbers!)

We also get props for RibFest, with Fargo earning No. 6 on Liveability.com’s Top 10 food festivals.

You’d think eating all those ribs would put the fat of the land on our butts and bellies.


Some of that is also due to doughnuts, lutefisk, lefse, krumkake and my mom’s rum balls. (See also Drunkest City.)

In July, North Dakota was rated the 21st most obese state in the nation by Trust for America’s Health.

If there’s a bonus, we don’t gain a lot of extra weight this time of year. A Weighttraining.com analysis found that North Dakotans come out of the holiday season relatively svelte, gaining an average of 0.6 pounds each during the annual Thanksgiving through New Year’s eat-a-thon. That’s fifth best in the country.

Texas was the worst state for weight gain, with residents adding 1.17 pounds over the holidays.

Our secret?

Grab a shovel and we’ll tell you at the big snowdrift at the end of the drive.

To your health, or not

On New Year’s Eve last year, The Daily Beast ranked Fargo the No. 2 drunkest city in America, looking at alcohol consumption over a month, levels of binge drinking and where large numbers of the populations suffer health problems due to overdrinking.

What is the Drunkest City in America? The “Beast” picks Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, MainStreet.

com pegs Fargo as the No. 3 drunkest city in the U.S., with 8.1 percent of us being heavy drinkers and 21.8 percent indulging in binge drinking.

Hilo and Kapa’a, Hawaii, are Nos. 1 and 2 respectively. So, aloha, then!

Despite being listed as one of the most regularly blitzed cities in the U.S. – or perhaps because of it – Fargo is No. 3 among the “least sad” cities in the country. That’s according to Men’s Health magazine, which apparently has a newsroom full of relatives in town, or they’re stalking us, because Fargo makes their lists ALL the time.

It’s nice, but kind of creepy, too. You know?

While Fargoans aren’t sad, we’re low on the lucky-meter, Men’s Health reported in November.

Fargo is No. 91 among 100 luckiest cities, with the list based on the number of lottery winners, holes-in-one, lightning strikes and deaths from falling objects, among other things.

Despite being unlucky, we’re not quick to anger.

Men’s Health rated Fargo the third-least-angry city in the U.S. in February. We were only out-mellowed by Lincoln, Neb., and Burlington, Vt.

(See what I mean? Men’s Health is everywhere! Space. Every relationship needs space.)

Fiscally fit

We do know how to watch our checkbooks here. The Norwegians and Germans who farmed this frigid land could make the buffalo on a nickel squeal.

The heap of honors reads like a Christmas letter from a family of overproud economists.

This good economic news also puts Fargo on top of another list by Sperling’s BestPlaces.

If your life has absolutely cratered due to a divorce, loss of a job, or other life-changing event, Fargo is the second-best place in the country to live for “starting over.”

The low unemployment rate means you almost have to work to not find a job.

Plus, having several colleges in the metro area is also supposed to improve dating opportunities (15.9 percent singles rate, baby!).

But No. 1 on the list is Iowa City, Iowa. So this list could be a little suspect for you middle-aged party types.

I’ve been to Iowa City. Just sayin’.

Don’t be a hater

North Dakota’s books may be in order, but our air is getting dissed.

The advocacy group Environmental Integrity Project ranked North Dakota No. 12 on its list of the “Filthy 15” states for emissions of toxic pollutants from coal-burning power plants.

At the same time, the American Lung Association loves us. The Fargo-Wahpeton, N.D., area is listed as among the Cleanest U.S. Cities for Ozone Air Pollution. And Bismarck is No. 11 and Fargo-Wahpeton No. 23 in the Top 25 Cleanest U.S. Cities for Year-Round Particle Pollution.

Meanwhile, those fun-loving folks at the Animal Legal Defense Fund list North Dakota as one of the “Top States to be an Animal Abuser.”

North Dakota is in the dog house for not having felony provisions for animal torture, extreme neglect or abandonment; no requirements for mental health evaluations or counseling for offenders; “inadequate” animal fighting provisions; and no restrictions on future ownership of animals after a conviction.

Other odd-ball stuff

Retirees apparently love us, when they’re not spending winters as “snowbirds” in Arizona, Texas and Florida.

Forbes.com puts Fargo as No 18 on its best places for active retirement.

Forbes magazine also placed Fargo’s downtown on its list of “most transformed neighborhoods” in the U.S.

North Dakota also has reached its highest-ever population. Never mind that there are suburbs of major cities that have more residents than the state’s 683,932.

The state gained 50,000 residents in the past eight years.

That’s largely due to the oil boom. But it also probably means we’re doing something right.

That’s no brag, just fact.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583