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Marvin Baker
Marvin Baker

Paris on the Prairie

Marvin Baker
 August 28, 2022
 •

Upside Down Under

Marvin.baker@mydakotan.com

A woman with four young children stopped by the farmers’ market last week and she said they had just moved to North Dakota from Louisiana. “From hurricanes to blizzards,” she said. But she seemed happy to be in Minot and her kids were relaxed and appeared to be having fun. 

As our conversation continued, she asked myself and my intern what there is to do around here? Of course, our answers centered around the usual things to do; high school sports, fishing on the lakes, traveling to tourist spots like the dinosaur museum in Dickinson and the International Peace Garden near Dunseith. 

Her next question was about what to do in the city. What city, I asked? “Well, don’t you have a city in North Dakota?” I told her we kind of do in Fargo, it’s nearly 300 miles to travel, but doesn’t offer the big city appeal like this woman is used to in New Orleans or Dallas. 

Her next question was about Regina and Winnipeg. I told her many people in northwest North Dakota visit Regina, but it’s just like here, only much larger, stores, grain elevators and farm fields. 

Winnipeg, however, is quite different. It’s obviously farther than Regina, but it’s a big city of nearly 1 million and has a lot of culture that can’t be found anywhere in North Dakota. 

I told this woman, who never told us her name, that Winnipeg is a melting pot of cultures and has some world class art in the Winnipeg Art Gallery which sometimes gives it the name, “Paris on the Prairie.” 

There’s Inuit culture, Ukrainian culture, Polish culture, Metis culture, French, German and British culture. It also has skyscrapers like one would find in New Orleans or Dallas.  

Numerous street fairs in summer and winter also make Winnipeg and the surrounding suburbs a great place to be, depending on your seasonal preference. 

The Festival du Voyageur is an annual 10-day winter festival that takes place in the Winnipeg suburb of Saint Boniface. The event is held each February and is western Canada's largest winter festival. There are people from the Minot area who have taken part in the festival’s fur trader's rendezvous. 

Winnipeg has a professional football team in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and has a world-class zoo. There’s a major shopping mall in Polo Park Shopping Centre with more than 200 stores. Minneapolis also has those amenities, but it is much farther away, making Winnipeg a more attractive travel option, especially for someone new to the northern Great Plains. 

There’s also Winnipeg Beach, which is a town in the Interlake Region of Manitoba, but also has a wonderful beach with a boardwalk, and although the swimming season is short, it’s a lot of fun. 

We could have easily talked about some of the tourist attractions in North Dakota, and briefly mentioned Mount Rushmore, but it was clear this woman was interested in what Winnipeg has to offer its visitors. 

I don’t know if she is affiliated with Minot Air Force Base or not. That would be the logical assumption. But people come here from all over the country for oilfield jobs, college and other job opportunities not found right now elsewhere in the nation. 

For goodness sake, a young man moved here from Sarasota, Fla., to work in oil and is now part of the family since he married my niece last summer. He too, is somewhat naive to what North Dakota and the surrounding states and provinces have. The other thing that is clear is that he likes it enough to stay here indefinitely. 

Let’s hope this new resident from Louisiana feels the same way. I do know her kids were looking forward to starting school here, because her oldest son actually said that. He is playing high school football in a new environment at a much higher latitude than he is used to playing. 

When the lady said she had to get going, I told her “Welcome to North Dakota and North Prairie Farmers’ Market.”  

She said it was a great conversation and quite an education and she would be back soon to visit. 

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