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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 06 2013

Making sandbags part of pre-wedding good time for bride-to-be and friends

FARGO – Galit DeWitz and her friends had a swinging bachelorette party Saturday – if you count making sandbags as a tear-it-up, rip-snortin’, pre-wedding good time.

The West Fargo woman and five of her friends spent several hours filling bags from a sandbag spider machine chute at Sandbag Central and tossing them on a pallet, doing their part to prepare for the anticipated flood.

“We wanted to do something worthwhile and not waste money” on booze and fancy food, the 31-year-old said. “I think they’re OK with it. We’re kind of not your typical girls. They really want to help.”

DeWitz’s matron of honor, Amanda Sharpe, was opening sandbags so they could be filled.

The Eagan, Minn., woman, who’s three months’ pregnant, called the industrial strength party “very refreshing.”

“You’ve got to do what you can” Sharpe yelled over the roar of the sandbag machine, forklifts and blasting rock music. “We’re older and wiser now. Volunteering is much better than drinking too much.”

Saturday was a good day at Sandbag Central (the city’s solid waste department building), with 88,000 bags filled by volunteers and inmates from the Cass County Jail.

Altogether, 476,000 of the 1 million bags officials say could be needed for this year’s flood fight have been made since the effort started Wednesday.

Bruce Grubb, Fargo’s enterprise director, said the turnout of 477 volunteers Saturday was “just outstanding” for a day without local schools or big businesses signing up for shifts.

Sandbag Central will be closed today and restarts operations Monday.

Joel Colvin, an Osgood-area resident, sported torn work clothes grubby with worked-in sand after his free three-hour workout making sandbags.

“I know some people think it’s not going to get that high” this year, he said, but he’d rather the city be safe than sorry.

“It’d be nice if everyone pitches in,” Colvin said.

A Waupaca, Wis., man did just that.

Travis Miller is one week into making a circuit of the United States on his bicycle.

After biking in from Detroit Lakes, Minn., Saturday, he stopped in Fargo to become part of sandbag lore.

“I got to put in three hours. I couldn’t believe how organized it is,” Miller said. “It’s actually nice I get to stand up and stretch a bit.”

Staking a good claim to being the volunteer from farthest away is 30-year-old Berdakh Utemuratov of Uzbekistan, a country in central Asia.

Utemuratov, an engineer in his homeland, is a graduate student at North Dakota State University. He put in four hours Friday and more than eight hours on Saturday.

Grubb said that with continued help from local school students, the 1 million bag goal will be met this week.

DeWitz’s wedding is April 27. That will give her and her friends plenty of time to work knots out of tired muscles.

When their shift was over, the party was to continue with tacos and a sleepover, DeWitz said.

She’s not sure her fiancé, Chris Culver, and his buds will sling any sandbags so they could stake a claim to being a power-bagging couple.

“I think he said they’ll probably play video games and eat junk food,” she said, grabbing another bag and letting it thump on the pallet.

If you go to make sandbags

Sandbag Central, 2301 8th Ave. N., Fargo, is closed today. But sandbag-making resumes Monday.

MATBUS will provide free rides for sandbagging and flood-relief volunteers from West Acres Mall (fountain entrance JCPenney wing) and Jitters Coffee Bar (Bison Block building near North Dakota State University).

Sandbag Central shuttles are available from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The last shuttles will depart the volunteer check-in sites at 6 p.m. Shuttles depart every 20 minutes.

Volunteers can call the volunteer hotline at (701) 476-4000 to register for a shift.

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