You might not have noticed, with all those masks covering the smiles, but Fargo and Bismarck are really happy.
Maybe it's the mild winter. We're not clenched against the normally arctic temperatures. It's easier to smile when your face isn't frozen.
Or maybe it's because we haven't been bombarded with snow and don't face a scary spring flood.
Whatever the reasons, Bismarck and Fargo were named in a recent ranking as the second and third happiest American cities.
We're flattered to have our happiness not go unnoticed. But we have a bone to pick. Bismarck is happier than Fargo? Seriously?
Other than the fact that it’s easier to find a good bowl of knoephla soup in Bismarck than Fargo, we’re hard-pressed to come up with solid reasons to believe that Bismarck is happier than Fargo.
In fact, at just about the same time that the happiness rankings came out, thanks to the data elves at WalletHub, news surfaced that the Census Bureau is considering raising the threshold to be considered a metropolitan area from 50,000 to 100,000.
In reporting that potential statistical demotion, from metropolitan to micropolitan, The Associated Press story jabbed our Capital city: “Bye, Bismarck: 144 cities could lose status as metro areas.”
Ouch. But Bismarck shrugged off the prospect.
Clearly, a key to being happy is to not let the small stuff get you down.
Fargo has a Walk of Fame, boasting the handprints of the likes of Metallica, Chuck Yeager, Dr. Ruth, Bill Gates and Sesame Street’s Bert & Ernie. Bismarck can’t touch that.
Fargo, of course, inspired the movie of the same name and is home to the infamous woodchipper. Quick: What movie has Bismarck prompted?
We concede, however, that Bismarck does have milder weather. That gives residents there something to smile about.
Seriously, though, Fargo and Bismarck have much to be happy about.
Among the 30 indicators of happiness weighed by WalletHub, Bismarck stood out for emotional and physical wellbeing as well as the income and employment categories. A bit lower on the ladder, it also ranked well in community and environment.
Fargo also fared well in the income and employment category, ranking third among the 182 cities examined for giddiness, and fifth in the income and employment, and ninth in the emotional and physical wellbeing categories.
There’s plenty of evidence that Fargo is “North of Normal,” as the slogan puts it. Despite the pandemic, the building boom continues downtown and around the city. Most visibly, the city’s new tallest edifice, the RDO Building, is opening to more tenants. (Bismarck still has the state’s tallest building, however, the Capitol, which Fargo developers modestly didn’t want to top.)
Fargo’s amenities continue to grow in number and variety. Most notably, the $77 million Fargo Sports Complex is in the works, an indoor recreation and community center slated to start construction in the spring of 2022.
The high happiness ranks really are a reflection of other surveys that repeatedly show that Fargo and Bismarck are great places to live and work. Both cities consistently rank high in terms of employment, career and quality of life opportunities.
And apparently the virtues of knoephla soup can’t be overrated.