The Williston Convention & Visitors Bureau along with the North Dakota Chokecherry Festival Committee is excited to bring this family friendly event back to Harmon Park for its 10th annual year this August 12-13. The festival celebrates the chokecherry as the North Dakota state fruit and honors the accomplishments of youth.
Prior to 2007, North Dakota had not named a state fruit. Williston students in Nancy Selby’s sixth grade class reached out to state lawmakers as part of a persuasive letter writing assignment, which in turn led to legislation designating the chokecherry as the State Fruit of North Dakota. Senator Stanley Lyson and Senator Nick Hacker sponsored Senate Bill 2145, and Governor John Hoeven signed the bill into law on March 29, 2007. Williston held the first North Dakota Chokecherry Festival August 18, 2007. The celebration has continued to evolve and grow each year.
Longtime festival supporter Nemont will kick things off at 4pm with the 1000 Burger Feed (free burgers for as long as they last!) and another annual sponsor, American State Bank, will be offering free ice cream sundaes with chokecherry syrup while supplies last. This year, North Dakota native Lexi Wyman will start the music off at the Virgil Syverson Performance Center at 5pm. Lexi will be followed by North Dakota crowd favorite Tigirlily at 7pm. Attendees are encouraged to browse vendor stalls and enjoy the music, then return to the park with blankets for an outdoor animated family movie at 10:30pm, “Zootopia.”
The festival continues on Saturday with a free pancake breakfast served by local Lions members and Community Builders, 7:30-10a.m. Runners of all ages are encouraged to take part in the Chokecherry 5k and 1 mile fun run. Registration will begin at 8a.m. with the race starting at 8:30a.m. More live music fills the stage on Saturday, featuring local favorite Brian Salveson, Teddy Talent Trek winners and at 5pm, North Dakota songbird and “The Voice” alumni Gwen Sebastian.
Kids will love participating in the popular Chokecherry Stroll on Saturday. All children are encouraged to dress up however they like, decorate their bikes and wagons, and “stroll” from Rickard Elementary to Harmon Park. Lineup for the Chokecherry Stroll on Saturday is at 9 a.m. at Rickard School. The stroll will begin at 9:30 a.m. and end in Harmon Park with a short program on the stage. Kids who participate in the stroll will receive a raffle ticket for fun prizes! The Kids Chokecherry Pit will open at 10 a.m. It features face-painting, balloon twisting, a chokecherry pit-spitting contest and other free family activities.
The Ultimate Air Dogs, a nationally-acclaimed dock dog jumping organization (www.ultimateairdogs.com), will return to the ND Chokecherry Festival on both Friday and Saturday with demonstrations by their own dogs and competitions for the public throughout the day. For the first time, the North Dakota Chokecherry Festival will be regional qualifying event for the Ultimate Air Dogs National Championships in the fall. The top 5 dogs in each division (Distance Jumping, Fetch It, Catch It and Chase It) will qualify to compete at National Championship event at Purina Farms this October. Each division will also have $500 in prize money.
All ages love watching the Ultimate Air Dogs. The public is encouraged to bring their water-loving, people friendly furry family members to participate at the festival. All sizes, breeds and ages are welcome, as long as they can swim!
Other firsts for the festival in 2016: Bear Hollow Wood Carvers will be offering live chainsaw carving demonstrations all day on Saturday. Their finished artwork will be available through a silent auction in the park, with proceeds going to support the festival. This year, the event will also feature a car show at the south end of Harmon Park and a special stamp cancelation on Saturday in honor of the North Dakota Chokecherry Festival.
The North Dakota Chokecherry Festival is supported the Williston Convention & Visitors Bureau as well as many business and individual sponsors. Events like the ND Chokecherry Festival could not happen without public support and sponsorship. If you are interested in being a festival supporter, contact the CVB. For more information, view the North Dakota Chokecherry Festival Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chokecherryfestival) or contact the Williston Convention & Visitors Bureau at