If all you know about Fargo is what you learned from the cult-movie-favorite of the same name, you're in for a surprise.
Sure, you can't blame the Fargo-Moorhead CVB for drumming up a little publicity from the darkly humorous flick—it even showcased the actual wood chipper from the Oscar-winning movie in an exhibit during National Tourism Week in May—but planners may not be aware of some of the more "traditional" meetings attributes of this dual-state destination.
"The city is actually two cities, two counties, two states, two federal districts—so we know what teamwork is," says Cole Carley, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead CVB (www.fargomoorhead.org). "We have to do more work for the [elements] involved because we have to cover more bases, but it gives us a certain redundancy in facilities that we normally wouldn't have if it was one city, one county, one state."
Carley is referencing the curious political anomaly of the destination, being that Fargo is located in North Dakota and neighboring Moorhead is right across the border in Minnesota.
"The two cities are about as different as cities can be," Carley says, noting that North Dakota is generally a small-government type of place and Minnesota can be put in the larger-government camp. (Fargo has five city commissioners representing a population of 100,000 and Moorhead has nine city council members to represent roughly 50,000 people, for instance.)
"Moorhead has a very high base of education, with a state university, private Lutheran college, community college and technical college—more of their population is education-based," Carley says. "Fargo is more white collar and research. It has a tech development department and one of the largest Microsoft campuses in the world, which creates a demand for high-tech students. We call this the 'Silicon Prairie.'"
Carley says the destination primarily draws state associations—from both states!—as well as regional and some small national groups.
"The biggest thing is the warm welcome that people get when they get here," Carley says. "Our promise statement is 'Fargo-Moorhead, Always Warm'—and we're not talking about the Weather Channel here!
"The other thing is we have great value and very high-quality hotels and conference facilities—most of them are flagged facilities," he continues. "With the value that you'll get here for similar facilities in larger cities, it's no contest. We're a little more expensive on the airfare, but if you take the total cost of the trip—air and hotel—it's a great value."
Fargo does offer air service from the major hub cities of Minneapolis, Chicago (O'Hare), Denver and Salt Lake City.
Carley points out several facilities as being good options for special events, such as the different environments in Red River Zoo (with a carousel and a Trapper's Cabin that looks out over a family of five timber wolves—on occasion they're fed in front of crowds); the Fargo Air Museum, with a collection entirely made of functional airplanes); Heritage Hjemkomst Center, which houses the last Viking ship to sail the Atlantic; and the Art Deco Fargo Theatre.
Major downtown hotels include the 151-room Radisson Hotel Fargo and the 17-room boutique Hotel Donaldson. The main shopping center area offers up Ramada and Hilton Garden Inn properties, as well as a Holiday Inn that has been rated one of the best in the brand.