FARGO — Fargo's version of New York City's Rockefeller Plaza lit up Thursday night, Dec. 3, as Broadway Square came alive in the heart of downtown Fargo.
The square offers some of the same amenities as its cousin in the biggest city in America, with a large ice skating rink and a towering Christmas tree that city officials plan to light in a ceremony each year.
Fargo Park District Director Dave Leker said there are 20,000 bulbs on the 32-foot high programmable Christmas tree, which shipped on 11 pallets and took park crews two days to assemble.
In addressing the crowd of about 200 at the square's opening, Mayor Tim Mahoney said he skated with his wife on the iconic Rockefeller Center landmark rink and added that she was excited about doing the same in downtown Fargo.
Just as in New York, Mahoney said he hoped people from one mile to 20,000 miles away will visit the new town square next to the 18-story Block 9 building and enjoy it year-round.
Mike Allmendinger, president of the Kilbourne Group, the developer that financed the $4.5 million construction of the square with the help of R.D. Offutt Co., said a survey conducted 10 years ago found what area residents wanted downtown most was a town square.
"The dream of 10 years is finally being realized," he said, noting many people were involved with the design of the square, which is just a bit smaller than an acre and within blocks of about 50 locally owned businesses.
Members of the crowd also said they were impressed with the square.
Terry Carlisle, who drove to the square from Detroit Lakes to watch his grandkid sing with the North Dakota State University Madrigal Singers — who harmonized Christmas carols for the crowd — said he thought it "will be a neat addition to downtown."
Ashley Woitzel of West Fargo was there with her family and son, who helped with the rink's ribbon cutting. Her HOPE Inc. team of children with disabilities were the first to take to the ice with their hockey sled team.
She said she didn't even know the square was there but that the facility was "really nice."
Melissa Paul, who joined the event with the Chamber of Commerce ambassadors, said she didn't skate, but she would use the square during the other seasons. More than 300 events are planned for next year, including movies, concerts, yoga classes and other activities. A splash pad and a green area with artificial grass are also part of the square.
More activities for the opening weekend are planned for Saturday.
Skating is available in 15-minute intervals from noon to 4 p.m., although skating rentals aren't available yet because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday, Broadway Square will offer professional family holiday photos taken in front of the Christmas tree or with reindeer, warm beverages at fire pits around the rink, Christmas wreaths from the Boy Scouts and free cookies from Third Drop Coffee with a purchase of a discounted beverage.
The Park District, which will operate activities at the square, will have the lighted rink open nights and for longer hours on the weekends.