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North Dakota New Year’s Eve

Traditions for New Year’s Eve in North Dakota have varied widely over the years. For many towns, the date has been wild. In Hague, North Dakota, several young men in the 1900’s welcomed the New Year with blasts of dynamite. This was supposedly an “old country custom,” but it was finally abandoned when the blast cracked the walls of local water wells.

Fort Yates, North Dakota, hosted a military ball in 1902. Residents of Emmons County, on the east bank of the Missouri River, crossed the ice by sleigh to attend. Residents from both sides of the river frequently shared social events. That was true of Fort Yates and the town of Winona until the Oahe Dam created Lake Oahe, which flooded the area.

Some celebrations weren’t just about New Year’s Eve. On this date in 1895, more than one hundred couples attended a ball for the dedication of the Wells County Courthouse in Fessenden. Special trains from Carrington and Harvey were put in service just for the occasion. A father and his three small children traveled from Leal, North Dakota, to provide music for the event as “Grey’s Little Brownie Orchestra.”

The annual firemen’s ball on New Year’s Eve in Lakota, North Dakota, was the town’s biggest social event. The 1921 dance brought in $251 for the fire department.

In Driscoll, the Luther League held an oyster supper and games for years, with the town’s church bell ringing in the New Year.

For a number of years in the 1900s, the Brown Opera House in New Rockford started the year off “with a bang” by hosting masquerade balls. In Glen Ullin, young men provided a bang of a different sort by shooting their rifles at midnight outside their lady friends’ homes, then subsequently being invited inside for a visit.

But while the celebrations were warm, the weather often wasn’t. Folks in Selfridge, North Dakota, welcomed 1920 at 43 degrees below zero.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Anniversary Book Committee. (1961). Selfridge, North Dakota seventy-five diamond years. N.p.
Centennial History Committee. (1983). A century of sowers … a harvest of heritage: New Rockford, North Dakota. N.p.
Emmons County Jubilee Committee. (1976). A history of Emmons county. Emmons County Historical Society: Linton, ND
Gay 30’s Committee. (1970). Driscoll, North Dakota, 1883-1970. N.p.
Lakota Centennial Book Committee. (1983). Lakota … 100 years, 1883-1983. Associated Printers: Grafton-Grand Forks, ND
Spokesfield, W.E. (1929). The history of Wells county, North Dakota, and its pioneers. N.p.

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