National Geographic : 2003 Nov
FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA Spirit Room gallery and yoga studio. They place blocks of wood under their feet to keep from sticking to the freezing metal. On the morning of the Pancake Karnival, the griddle action is intense. "My eyelashes are melted together," says LeAnn Koehler, a first time flipper. "Next time I won't wear mascara." Two griddles down Alex Sahr shares the wis dom of his 85 years. "When it gets dry around the edges, flip it. But don't flip it too high." Right. Might be a violation of janteloven. Tami Smith, wearing a headset to com mand her troops, takes a cell phone call from a fellow Kiwanian lying on a beach some where in the Caribbean. "The sausage fryer keeps blowing fuses," she tells him. "Otherwise, we're doing pretty good." More janteloven, actually. Tami and her Karnival crew will break the record they care about most, raising more than $30,000 for charity, their highest amount ever, while serving a near record 10,737 attendees. Out there among the breakfasting throng bobs a lonely Mohawk hair cut of blue and yellow spikes. It belongs to Jake Boucher, 15, who, having downed his last flapjack, is eager to leave this Karnival for another carnival. That would be the city's first Winter Carnival, featuring punk rock and homegrown avant-garde. Eighteen bands play for no pay at the Fargo Theatre. At one point local drag queens appear on stage to lip-synch tunes by Cher and other divas. And just after midnight, at show's end, the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ rises from its pit. The man at the four banks of keys is the furthest thing from the shrieking headbangers who just preceded him onstage. But silver-haired Dave Knudtson, employed here at the theater for more than a quarter century, pumps forth a melody from his youth, "Mister Sandman," that soothes and pleases the weary teenagers clustered around. Statistics show North Dakota is having a difficult time keeping its young people in the state. But tonight, in Fargo at least, no one's in a hurry to leave the party. E Downtown Fargo blinks awake beneath a frigid dawn. When darkness returns Tom Opdahl (below) takes center stage on a freezing fire escape out side a yoga and healing arts center. Having baked in a sauna, he cools his steaming flesh in the subzero air. "It's invigo rating,' he says. Now that's a taste of midwestern understatement any screenwriter would love. Find more 58102 images along with field notes and resources at nationalgeo graphic.com/ngm/0311. Tell us why we should cover YOUR FAVORITE ZIP CODE at nationalgeographic .com/ngm/zipcode/0311.