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Carrie Snyder, Published December 25 2012

PHOTO ESSAY: Gary, Minn., a small town with a big heart

GARY, Minn. - ‘Take state Highway 10 to state Highway 32. … I will meet you at the cafe.”

Those were the directions given to me by Lori Thronson, resident and my soon-to-be tour guide of Gary.

As a Forum photographer, I mostly work on stories assigned by reporters and editors. But I wanted to start telling some stories on my own.

So, The Forum put out a call to readers to explain why I should visit their town for a photo essay.

This line from the Gary Community Club letter stood out above the others: “There are no stoplights, no Big Box Stores. A hometown with a gas station/convenience store where they still pump your gas and will deliver your groceries to your door.”

I was sold.

Gary is a town of about 214 people, mostly Scandinavians, in the northeastern corner of Norman County. The town itself covers 0.3 square miles, but there is plenty to do in this “small town with a big heart.”

“You can be as busy or as slow as you want to be,” Thronson said. “But if you stay home too many days in a row, somebody will find you.”

While in Gary, I was welcomed by a group of seniors eating lunch at the Gary Cafe. Within minutes, I discovered connections to people in town, including retired school teacher Alden Anderson, who taught the father of a good friend of mine.

“A small town is where you come in, and within a half hour, you either know somebody or are related to somebody,” Anderson said.

The community kept me on a tight schedule: 11 am, café; 11:30 a.m., senior center and laundromat; 12:30, Alumni Center, and so on. We ended the day looking at Christmas lights, then hitting up the local bar for dart league.

After spending the day with the residents of Gary, I can tell you: This really is a small town with a big heart.

So what makes your town special?

The Forum is looking to visit small towns within 60 miles of the Fargo-Moorhead area to periodically showcase.

Send us a short essay, no longer than 500 words, on what makes your town special.


Essays can be sent to photographer Carrie Snyder at csnyder@forumcomm.com.