The cities of Fargo and Moorhead were celebrating a week of festivities honoring William Shakespeare on this day in 1916. The festivities, including plays, parades, games, dances, and fireworks, were held as part of a nation-wide celebration honoring the three-hundred year anniversary of the English poet’s death. Although the exact date of the poet’s birth and death remain unknown, both are generally placed within the last week of April or into early May.
Fargo-Moorhead’s collaboration during the event was one of the first times in the cities’ histories to do so. Seven thousand students from both Fargo and Moorhead elementary schools, high schools, and universities participated in the event. The week kicked off on May 6th with a colorful parade through downtown Fargo. Featuring over one thousand schoolchildren and dozens of floats, the parade stretched over two miles in length. All of the participants were costumed in Elizabethan-era dress, most of which were borrowed from Minneapolis or made by the festival’s committee.
Town criers preceded the parade, announcing the arrival of Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare, played by Miss Ethel Sweet and the Agriculture College’s Professor A. G. Arvold. Parade participants ended the jaunt at Island Park, where a reception was held to the court of Queen Elizabeth.
Games and dances from the time of Shakespeare’s life followed the ceremony; hundreds of area schoolchildren participated in games of Mulberry Bush, London Bridge, and Lobby Lou. That evening, the Moorhead Normal School put on a production of The Merchant of Venice at the Orpheum Theater. The Orpheum’s manager donated the use of the theater to the city for the entire week, and local schools put on a variety of Shakespearean plays twice a day throughout the remainder of the week. Area businesses closed during several of the week’s events. Fargo-Moorhead merchants also joined in the festivities by creating unique window displays and decorating their stores in the Elizabethan style. Area libraries held several events concerning the life and works of Shakespeare, and the Moorhead
Normal School sponsored a six-part lecture series on the poet. The week of festivities closed with a magnificent fireworks display up and down Broadway, sponsored by local businessmen.
--Jayme L Job
Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). April 12, 1916: p. 1, 7.
Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). May 5, 1916: p. 10.
Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). May 6, 1916: p. 4.