Spending an entire week in Perry, Georgia with temperatures reaching 110 degrees, I learned a lot about what the country thinks and knows about North Dakota. We could take it two ways, good or surprised.
Most states in the U.S. have no clue of where ND is located, where their bread comes from, or anything about the energy, agriculture, beauty or people ND has to offer. That puts us in a good spot, we are in our own world. Untouched by traffic and lines at restaurants or water parks, our state proves to be a hidden gem. Amidst walking the parking lots, engaging with the crowd and light conversations; I will come back knowing, we aren't a famous state, but we still may be the best state in the Union.
Amongst the crowd at one live performance, I ran into a Mississippi rodeo mom. She explained that she didn't know anything or anyone from ND but had picked up two kids on her golf cart on the way to the rodeo the night prior. She told me, “I have never met more genuine and polite kids in my life, that’s what I now know about ND.”
Talking to a few families from Florida, not many knew anything about our state. “Cold, that's all. One time we had to drive there in April and hit a blizzard. I learned how to drive behind a snowplow” stated the Florida rodeo dad.
Walking the rodeo grounds on a parking lot literally hot enough to fry an egg (yes, we tried), I came across two ranchers from Nebraska. They didn't know anything about ND except that it is a ways up there and said that Devil’s Lake sure had some good fishing.
An Arkansas rodeo mom said, “I don’t know a soul or a thing about ND.” Amidst conversation, I had the chance to enlighten her about where her bread and pasta come from. “I am really impressed by that, I had no idea, I thought it came from the store” Arkansas added.
Our neighbors to the west, Montana, had a few things to say, “I could've got rich from ND, I almost bought a hundred acres before the oil patch came, but some people just aren't meant to be rich! You all have some of the heartiest grass around for livestock and ND sure is beautiful eight months of the year.”
A Texas hat company vendor said, “I've never spent any time in ND, I truly only know of Minot and know of all the oil workers up there and the energy production. Y'all are kind of in your own bubble. Be glad for that, there's a lot going on down here in Texas with the border and all and land prices have skyrocketed.” Adding to the conversation, we discussed the Minot Air Force Base and its’ prominence to the U.S., our agriculture production, and oil production.
Some rodeo fans from Wisconsin that were in their mid-70’s exclaimed, “Is that in the US?” Further into the talk, they had a family member step in and say that the climate in ND gets really warm and really cold and that our weather changes too much.”
Of course, much like most people I interviewed, they had never visited our great state, but I relentlessly tried to inform them of the beauty, wide open spaces, and what they were missing.
Two Utah contestants said, “Don’t you all have that really good bull rider from up there, who is it? Hayes?” I assured them that it was our very own, Hayes Weinberger of Solen, ND. He lights up the arena every time he crawls on a bull.
A family from Georgia had a lot to say, “We have lived up there and can say, ND has the best quality of life. We really enjoyed it when we lived there.”
I was gaining a little hope after this conversation, so I ventured on. Finding a competitor from the country of Mexico, I really thought I was getting somewhere. Asking her if she knew where ND was. “Yes,” she replied and smiled. Asking her if she knew what we did in ND? “Yes,” replied again. Then finally after more small talk; she said “Un pocito English.” I kindly smiled and said, “Muchas Gracias.” Despite our language barrier, our enthusiasm to talk to each other was wholesome.
New Mexico had a lot to say. “Don’t you have that really good governor, that lady?” I kindly explained that was SD.
“What about that movie, Fargo?” I again had an explanation, that movie was more based out of Minnesota and doesn't really encompass anything ND. They also said that they can relate. A lot of people they talk to think that New Mexico isn't part of the U.S., and they must be from Mexico.
A gentleman from Oklahoma, by way of Colorado, seemed to have a real sense on what ND had to offer as far as the economy. “There are some huge ranches up there, great ranching country. The crops you all grow are endless too.” He further asked me about the types of wheat and where we ship it and was genuinely interested in the importance of ND to this country.
Our young ND junior high rodeo athletes, fans and parents surely left their mark in Georgia. Whether it was charming people with their politeness, sportsmanship and camaraderie as a team, all noticed by the announcer and rodeo fans across the US.
Our team left everything on the arena floor, and as I write, they are going to the short-go sitting 4th as a team against the rest of the world. Team ND and everyone back at home; stay true #ND tough!