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Published August 02 2012

A fitting birthday party at West Acres

FARGO – With food, family, and legions of fans, West Acres celebrated its 40th birthday in style Thursday night.

The shopping center was buzzing with visitors as it threw one of its biggest live events in recent memory.

“We’re excited,” said Alissa Sorum, the West Acres marketing director. “There’s been a lot building up to this.”

The festivities kicked off around 4:30 p.m., when the area chamber of commerce held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting event with many of the mall’s owners.

That gave way to a sea of visitors seeking snacks, gift cards and other freebies given away in the course of the festivities.

In all, the mall handed out 4,000 cupcakes and 4,000 tote bags – some of which contained $40 gift cards. Many stores held special anniversary sales – think 40 percent off.

There was a short quiz on mall history customers could complete for the chance to win a mall gift card, face-painting and balloon animals for children, a photo booth and a free concert by local band The Front Fenders.

After the shops closed, the mall held a screening of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” which was released a year before West Acres opened, in the south parking lot.

Melinda Lockner of Glyndon, Minn., was among those on hand for the celebration, along with her 5-year-old daughter, who waited in the balloon line.

She said she comes to the mall a few times a week.

“You just get good deals,” she said. It doesn’t hurt that her niece, 13, “is at the age now where she hangs out at the mall.”

Doug Bredine of Fargo and his family come far less often – perhaps three times a year. But he brought his children for the festivities, which they looked to be enjoying immensely.

“We’re out here for the kids,” he said.

Jeff Schlossman, son of mall founder Bill Schlossman and brother of West Acres chief executive Brad, said the party was a fitting milestone for four successful decades.

“It’s a great time to reflect and reminisce on everything that’s happened,” he said. “It’s amazing to see the changes.”

Fred Anderson, the mall’s first operations manager, said it was a good chance to gather with old friends with whom he worked for years.

“It’s homecoming,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502