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North Dakota's Top 10 Events and Festivals this August
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North Dakota's Top 10 Events and Festivals this August

Picture of Julie Daunt
Updated: 9 February 2017
Sometimes known as the Peace Garden State, North Dakota has vast historical wealth, from Jurassic period artefacts to Native American settlements. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the state became a destination for German, Norwegian and Swedish immigrants, resulting in a rich diversity of culture. This melting pot of ethnicities has led to an intriguing and innovative cultural calendar in North Dakota, on show this August.

Festival | Capital A’Fair

1 – 3 August

This August will see the 40th iteration of the annual Capital A’Fair taking place in Bismarck. The Capital A’Fair is one of the area’s largest summer arts and cultural fairs, and features over 130 artists, craft makers and food vendors, both locally and regionally. The fair takes place in the Capital Park in the grounds of the North Dakota State Capitol, and is organised by the Bismarck Art & Galleries Association, which is a non-profit visual arts centre. The proceeds of the fair go towards the association, which organises a number of other events throughout the year in Bismarck. The fair is not only about local arts and crafts, but also features performance groups, a best of show award, an antique car show, children’s activities and this year, a chalk art contest. Together with live music and locally produced food, the Capital A’Fair is a great way to spend the first weekend in August in Bismarck.

Capital A’Fair, Capitol Park, 422 E Front Ave, Bismarck, North Dakota. +1 701 2235986

Performing Arts | Spring Awakening at The Empire Arts Center

2 and 5 – 9 August

Based on the 1906 play by FrankWedekind and with music by Duncan Sheik, the Empire Arts Center presents Spring Awakening this August. Adapted into a rock musical in 2006, 100 years since the original play’s premiere, Spring Awakening went on to win eight Tony Awards, including one for best musical. Although set in the original play’s time period, the modern musical employs an alternative and folk rock score, bringing the controversial drama to today’s audiences. The musical explores divisive themes of sexuality, love, innocence, abuse, youth and death. Enhancing the musical’s historical roots is its venue of the iconic Empire Arts Theatre, which was once a movie theatre during the 1920s, but has now become a jewel in the theatrical crown of Grand Forks.

The Empire Arts Center, 415 Demers Avenue, Grand Forks, North Dakota. +1 701 7465500

Food | Best of the West Ribfest

8 August

Celebrating the best of Watford and North Dakota culture is the Best of the West Ribfest. Along with the famous rib contest, this year’s Best of the West Ribfest will also feature the 1st Annual Bash on the Grass concert series, which will be kicked off with a concert by Travis Tritt. This concert will take place at the McKenzie County Fairgrounds, while the street fair will be held on the main street of Watford. There is also a contest for booth showmanship, live country, folk and bluegrass music from local musicians such as Jessie Veeder and Gettin’ Outta Dodge, line dancers, street dancing and a classic car show. With a wide variety of attractions, there is plenty to experience at this year’s Watford Ribfest.

Best of the West Ribfest, Main Street, Watford City, North Dakota. +1 701 5705084

Festival | The North Dakota Chokecherry Festival

8 – 9 August

The North Dakota Chokecherry Festival is a two day family event taking place in Harmon Park in Williston. The festival celebrates North Dakota’s state fruit, the chokecherry, and the accomplishments of youth. The festival features a mix of food and craft vendors, the 1000 Burger Feed on Friday and a free pancake feed on Saturday morning. Festival goers will enjoy watching the Ultimate Dock Dogs, live music by local and regional talent such as Tigirlily, October Road, The Last Echo and Island Time Steel Drums, as well as New Mexico rockers Missing Stateside. Families will enjoy a free movie screening of Hook at dusk on August 8, and face painting, balloon sculpting, bubble stations and more in the Kid Zone on August 9.

The North Dakota Chokecherry Festival, Harmon Park, Williston, North Dakota. +1 701 7749041

Music | Rock the Leaves Music Festival

15 – 17 August

Now in its 8th year, the Rock the Leaves Music Festival is an annual benefits concert that takes place in Minot. The festival has grown since its humble beginnings as a one day event, to a three day festival and now attracts both local and national visitors. The festival’s aim is to raise awareness about contemporary issues, and also to take action and to generate change in the community of Minot, as well as nationally. The event takes place in the Minot City Auditorium and the Scandinavian Heritage Park, which provides an atmosperic and historic setting for the live music and free hot food at the festival.

Rock the Leaves Music Festival, 1020 South Broadway, Minot, North Dakota. +1 701 3909728

Art and Music | North Dakota Museum of Art

12 & 26 August

Since 1981, the North Dakota Museum of Art has been a major contributor to Grand Forks and North Dakota’s annual cultural agenda. August 2014 is no exception, with the month filled with innovative art exhibitions and enjoyable music. The museum’s Concerts in the Garden series returns, with this August featuring the musical talents of the Dirty River Boys from Austin Texas, and Brooklyn based group, She Keeps Bees. The Dirty River Boys started from a humble background of playing in their local venue, the Lustre Pearl, but have gained notoriety for their energetic yet acoustic sound. She Keeps Bees have been creating home produced music since 2006, with lead vocalist Jessica Larrabee receiving critical acclaim for her vocal range and stage performance. Visitors can enjoy these musical delights outdoors in the museum’s sculpture garden, while eating locally produced hamburgers and bratwursts, and root beer floats. This August also sees the opening of the exhibition Fractured: North Dakota’s Oil Boom, on August 3. Renowned photographer Terry Evans and award winning journalist Elizabeth Farnsworth explore and reveal the implications of the oil boom in the Williston Basin of North Dakota. Through their investigations, this exhibition documents the upheaval of this boom, and what it means for the wider community, beyond North Dakota’s borders.

North Dakota Museum of Art, 261 Centennial Drive Stop 7305, Grand Forks, North Dakota. +1 701 7774195

Film | The Fargo Theatre


A landmark of Fargo, The Fargo Theatre has held pride of place in the city since 1926. Functioning as a cinema and a vaudeville theatre, the Fargo Theatre has now become a centre of cutting edge films, celebrated concerts and outstanding theatre. This August sees no change to Fargo Theatre’s programme, with the venue hosting concerts and films that will attract a wide variety of audiences. August 15 sees Fargo being transported to Scandinavia with the sounds of Eurovision winners Abba. Founded in 1995 in Gothenburg, Arrival from Sweden has become one of the most popular and successful Abba tribute groups in the world. Working with the original designer and current owner of Abba’s stage clothes, Owe Sandström, as well as band members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, Arrival from Sweden brings the iconic and innovative sound of Abba to the Fargo Theatre. The Fargo Theatre will also host its popular Classic Film Series, with the 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird as its August billing. Entering into the National Film Registry in 1995, To Kill a Mockingbird is a pivotal film that deals with injustice, racial discrimination and social order. Coupled with the historical setting of the Fargo Theatre, film goers will be transported to a bygone era of American history.

Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway, Fargo, North Dakota. +1 701 2354152

Art | Plains Art Museum

Until September

The Plains Art Museum opened in its current location in 1997, and is now one of the premier arts venues in Fargo and North Dakota. While the museum holds an impressive permanent collection of over three thousand works, there are also a number of temporary exhibitions taking places over the course of this summer. These exhibitions display a variety of themes and media. One exhibition is Living as Form (The Nomadic Version), which ends on September 14, and is part of an international and evolving project which explores twenty years of culture, with an emphasis on community engagement in art. The exhibition is based on 48 different socially engaged projects from around the world. The Plains Art Museum has also contributed to this growing repertoire, by engaging with local artists whose work is based on social involvement. Visitors to the exhibition are able to contribute to the World’s Longest Scarf, partake in the Conversation Circle and play ping pong. Running until September 7 is the solo show of Fargo based artist Sabrina Hornung, and her exhibition Trail Dust and Sentiment.The exhibition displays two bodies of work by Hornung; her mixed media transparencies and her cyanotypes. Hornung focuses on fusing different photographic processes with other methods of art making, such as painting and collage, to create works that explore the local North Dakota social and geographical landscape. These are just two of the current exhibitions running in the Plain Arts Museum, and are worth a visit this August.

Plains Art Museum, 704 First Avenue North, Fargo, North Dakota. +1 701 2323821

Art and Music | Why Not!?! Music and Art Festival

22 – 24 August

Performances, art, short films and live bands are just some of the highlights from the Why Not!?! Music and Art Festival taking place in Minot this August. Organised by Pangea House, which is an organisation and arts centre set up to encourage a sense of community through the arts, the Why Not!?! Music and Art Festival supports and showcases local and regional talent, bringing together the wider community. The festival also takes place in a number of venues each year, such as Minot Park, so you can experience the atmosphere of the festival through the ‘Magic City’ of Minot.

Event takes place in various venues in Minot, North Dakota.

By Julie Daunt