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Matt Von Pinnon, Published June 23 2012

Von Pinnon: In West Fargo, cruising, boozing all part of scene

Fargo and West Fargo both have their respective monthly downtown cruise nights, when folks with cool cars show them off and the rest of us ogle or take a trip down memory lane.

Moorhead this summer started offering a monthly Bike Night for motorcyclists, a new twist on these events that have proven especially popular with baby boomers.

All three cities’ events are similar in many ways.

But West Fargo allows something the others don’t: unrestricted alcohol.

Attend a West Fargo Cruise Night and it’s hard not to notice all the beer in the hands of those walking around.

I don’t consider myself a teetotaler, but it seems like a mixed message to have drinking as an element of an event that celebrates the joys of driving.

Our society has decided those two things don’t go well together.

People not necessarily against this practice have noticed and asked if West Fargo simply allows public consumption of alcohol in the city.

I called West Fargo Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan, who explained.

Turns out West Fargo, as recently as a couple years ago, enacted an ordinance that prohibits the public consumption of alcohol in commercial areas.

Sheyenne Street, where Cruise Night is held once a month, qualifies as a commercial district.

However, Cruise Night’s main sponsors – Toppers Car Club, WDAY and the City of West Fargo itself – asked that the city administrator waive that ordinance for the monthly events, a move the city administrator granted and has the authority to do.

Reitan said the city and sponsors get together every so often to review how that is working, and so far it’s working fine.

They have only had one rather serious incident since Cruise Night began, and it happened at the very first event: A drunken driver crashed into two collector cars parked along the path.

Reitan said the driver, who had not been drinking at the event, came to the event too drunk to drive. That person was arrested for DUI after the crash.

West Fargo Police employs two bike patrol officers to monitor the route and surrounding areas. Also, two other officers walk the route, Reitan said.

He said the sponsors, and especially Toppers volunteers, have worked hard to help police the event and keep it family friendly.

He said they understand such events are a privilege and that if things start to get out of hand, police will have no choice but to place more restrictions on where people can drink.

Reitan said the police haven’t received a formal complaint about the public alcohol approach at Cruise Night, but he said he has fielded questions about it.

“We intend it to be a family event,” Reitan said. “If it becomes apparent that the intent or focus of the show is lost, we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579.