Many towns across the nation have celebrations during the summer. Not all of them, however, include an abundance of activities held over the course of an entire week. Great Moorhead Days (GMD) dates back to 1951, although there have been several name changes and periods of dormancy. What hasn’t changed, however, is the sense of pride and exuberance that makes the event such a success year after year.
According to the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, the festival began in 1951 when concerned Moorhead businessmen wanted to find a way to drive Fargo shoppers over the bridge to Moorhead. As the festival plans began taking shape, Moorhead leaders were skeptical. Eventually, they approved Greater Moorhead Week (as it was called then), expecting the five-day event to fail.
That first festival included a free pancake feed, cooking school conducted by University of Minnesota home economists, a style show, a flower show, a special farmers’ day, a sports-men’s show, essay contest for school kids and regular drawings for over $10,000 in donated gifts, including a new 1951 Ford automobile.
The event was a huge success, bringing an estimated 20,000 people to Moorhead. All totaled, those visitors spent over $650,000. Despite the festival’s accomplishments, support for the event began to diminish over the next couple of decades. Fortunately, Moorhead leaders resurrected the celebration on an annual basis in 2004, changing the focus from retail to the art, cultural, and recreation opportunities in Moorhead.
One of the most popular events is the GMD Parade. According to Kim Wangler, Recreation Specialist with Moorhead Parks and Recreation, the parade typically includes up to 75 floats. The Moorhead High School Marching Band, Fire Trucks, and Big Equipment are always highlights. Of course, for most kids, the highpoint of any parade is the candy.
One reason GMD has maintained its popularity is the festival planners’ willingness to keep events fresh and new. According to Wangler, this year will see a variety of traditional events, such as:
- The ever popular Pancake Feed
- Wings & Wheels Fly In & Car Show, including youth airplane rides
- Midco Kids Fest featuring Penny and Pals, inflatable games, a petting zoo, clowning, a play-do station, kite flying and more
- Medallion Hunt
- I Spy Photo Contest
The event will also see many new events, including:
- A Welcome Back Students Night on the First Avenue North Bridge that will include music by The Johnny Holm Band and a variety of food trucks
- The Flatlander FM Rotary Ride that will include activities at Miracle Field. All proceeds will go to Gigi’s Playhouse and Down Syndrome Achievement Center
- Heritage Garden & Amphitheater Grand Opening at Woodland Park that includes food trucks, a movie, and music by the Lake Agassiz Concert Band
- Remembering 9/11event on the Memorial Bridge, hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America – Chapter 941
- Sidewalk Art and Poetry Readings at the Rourke Art Gallery
- Moorhead Farmers Market at Moorhead Center Mall
- A Treasure Hunt, Bike Parade, and Kite Flying activity added to the Kids Fest
GMD will take place September 8-14 at locations around Moorhead. Whether you are from Moorhead or live in the surrounding area, everyone is invited. “Come out and experience Moorhead and take part in many of the festivities planned,” Wangler invited.
By Jamee Larson