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Published September 11 2012

Benshoof: New York writer to get her chance to visit Fargo after dissing state

FARGO - Two weeks ago, Mandi Woodruff gave North Dakota a cold shoulder.

Now, the state is returning the favor with a warm welcome.

Woodruff, a writer for the New York City-based Business Insider website, recently wrote an opinion piece titled “Why I’ll Never Move to North Dakota, No Matter What the Experts Say.”

After I read her story, I responded to Woodruff with my column, where I invited her to come visit Fargo and see what it’s actually like here (but, I didn’t go so far as to actually offer to pay for her trip. I’m nice, but I’m not that nice).

Of course, I wasn’t the only one who noticed Woodruff’s piece. So, too, did the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A day or so after my column ran in the paper, the CVB reached out to

Woodruff and did what I could not: offered to bring her out here for a weekend trip.

Nicole Moen, director of marketing at the CVB, was the one who personally contacted Woodruff.

“She and I are about the same age, and I told her, ‘I think you’d really enjoy it here,’ ” Moen told me earlier this week.

The total cost of the trip on Oct. 12-14 hasn’t been finalized yet, but Moen estimated the airline ticket would be around $400-700, plus the group will also spring for two nights at a downtown hotel, plus some food and other expenses.

While it doesn’t happen often, Moen says it’s not unusual for the CVB to pay to bring out someone like Woodruff who can help give the Fargo-Moorhead area a little publicity.

Moen plans to take Woodruff to the North Dakota State University football game that weekend, and the CVB also put together a tentative agenda for her.

But Woodruff also wants to have her own time to explore and see the city with her own eyes, and “not be shown a certain version of it by someone else,” she told me this week over the phone.

“I just want to go there with an open mind, see what there is to see by myself, and try to stay incognito a little bit,” she says.

Woodruff plans to write about her experience in Fargo for her employer, but she says until she gets here she’s not sure what she’ll actually write about.

“It’ll be a cool way to feature a city that I don’t think people know much about,” she says.

That sounds good, but I asked Moen if there’s any concern at the CVB that Woodruff’s visit might not change her opinion.

What if, I asked, she finds even more things to dislike about North Dakota?

“Of course we want her to walk away from Fargo-Moorhead with a positive outlook on the city, but we can’t pretend we’re something we’re not,” Moen told me. “We’re not asking her to move to Fargo-Moorhead.”

Well, you never know.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

Make it authentic

What should Mandi Woodruff do while she’s in Fargo to have an “authentic” Fargo experience? Email suggestions to sbenshoof@forumcomm.com, or tweet to me on Twitter at @forumsamshoof, or to Woodruff at @mandiwoodruff.