'Fargo' wood chipper replica unveiled at North Dakota tourism conference

FARGO - Cole Carley learned long ago to embrace the kitsch value out-of-state visitors associate with North Dakota.

Mitch Highman of Fargo takes a picture of the chipper
Mitch Highman of Fargo takes a picture of a one-of-a-kind wood chipper on display Tuesday at the 2011 North Dakota Travel Industry Conference at the Holiday Inn. Photo by Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO - Cole Carley learned long ago to embrace the kitsch value out-of-state visitors associate with North Dakota. The head of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau figures as long as there's no malfeasance involved, any publicity is good publicity.

So when the annual North Dakota Travel Conference rolled into town this week, Carley didn't waste the opportunity to unveil his organization's latest creation: a replica of the infamous wood chipper from the 1996 movie "Fargo."

The mock-up, soon to be on display at the visitors bureau, comes complete with a fake leg sticking out the top and its own Facebook page.

The light-hearted touch comes on the heels of a strong year for the industry. Last year, the state saw upswings in Canadian border crossings (up 20 percent from 2009), air travel passengers (up 11 percent), and hotel occupancy (up 5 percent).

The conference, which began Monday and runs until this afternoon, drew more than 200 tourism professionals from around the state. The event included sessions on marketing strategy, social media, improving service and overcoming negative stereotypes.


Freelance writer and editor Tanner Lantham, motivational speaker Bryan Dodge and new Minnesota State University Moorhead head football coach Steve LaQua were among the conference's keynote speakers.

Tuesday's session included an awards lunch to recognize a number of individuals and programs. North Dakota first lady Betsy Dalrymple presented the awards.

She praised the industry - North Dakota's third-largest at around $4.1 billion a year - as "an important contributor to the state's strong economy."

Winners included:

  • John Hild, maintenance director of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, for the behind-the-scenes employee award.
  • The Fargo Marathon as event of the year.
  • Tiffany Rolfstad of the Minot Sleep Inn & Suites for the front-line tourism employee award.
  • Gary Schutler of Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours for the international tourism award.
  • The Dakota Zoo in Bismarck as tourist attraction of the year.
  • Wendy Howe, executive director of the Minot Convention and Visitor's Bureau, for the tourism leader award.
  • "Canoeing, cooking, campfire: a women's weekend on the Red" by River Keepers of Fargo for the best package award.

In keeping with the conference's tradition of handing out awards made by North Dakota artists, winners received wooden vases carved by a Watford City woodworker. Fargo Marathon Executive Director Mark Knutson quipped, "We were coming over to look at the wood chipper and we get this beautiful piece of wood."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502

What To Read Next
Get Local