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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • The fun begins where the blacktop ends



  • The two small North Dakota towns of Whitman and Dahlen have a

    combined population of about 20, but next weekend they will be shoulder to shoulder with party-goers. Both towns will be celebrating 100 years, with Whitman's Centennial

    celebration on Friday, July 6 and Dahlen's Centennial celebration on Saturday, July 7.


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  • The two small North Dakota towns of Whitman and Dahlen have a
    combined population of about 20, but next weekend they will be shoulder to shoulder with party-goers. Both towns will be celebrating 100 years, with Whitman's Centennial
    celebration on Friday, July 6 and Dahlen's Centennial celebration on Saturday, July 7.
    Whitman, ND
    The U.S. Census lists the population of Whitman as zero, but that isn't exactly accurate, said Bob Vasichek, who lives in nearby Michigan.
    “There are two people that live on the edge of the city,” he said during a recent phone interview. “They're up to four now in the summer.”
    That will all change one week from today when the tiny town celebrates its 100th birthday.
    “It's kind of the last hurrah for Whitman,” Vasichek said. “I grew up there and I said if I'm still alive when the centennial comes, we'll have a party.”
    Vasichek said they have spent about a year planning the celebration and he cannot believe the support they have received from neighboring communities.
    “The donations we have got have been unbelievable,” he said.
    The festivities will kick off at 11:30 a.m. with a parade, followed by a program at 1 p.m. Trains rides will be available from 2-4 p.m. and a bounce house will be set up for the kids. Horse and wagon rides will also be offered.
    There will be live entertainment from 3-7 p.m. with a pig roast planned at 6 p.m.
    The evening will conclude with a street dance featuring music from the 50s and 60s.
    A brief history
    According to the Whitman Centennial website, the Soo Line Railroad began construction of a roadbed for the Fordville-Drake Line in 1910. By 1912, they had the first train service. The railroad civil engineer who laid out the lines and planned where the towns would be was named E. A. Whitman, so his name was given to the town.
    It was also said the townsite was surveyed and laid out in winter, hence the slogan: “Dahlen on the Soo … Whitman on the slough.”
    Whitman was once a thriving community, with an elevator, fire department, blacksmith shop, community hall, lumber yard, cafes, bars, post office and school.
    The schoolhouse, built in 1914, burned down on January 14, 1962. Whitman boasted a high school intermittently from 1917 to 1950 and officially consolidated with Michigan in 1959.
    Dahlen, ND
    The population of Dahlen is officially listed at 18, but that number may have changed since the last census took place.
    “There's between 15 and 20,” said resident Janice Dahlen. “I would have to re-count. I'm not sure.”
    One thing that is certain, however, is the number of people who have ties to the small town and still claim it as home. In fact, the centennial planning meetings average about 25 people.
    Page 2 of 2 - All of that work will culminate on Saturday, when the town celebrates its 100th birthday with events planned  for all ages.
    “We're going to have a parade, tractor pull, children's activities, and antique truck and tractor pull,” Dahlen explained. “It will probably be the last really big celebration.”
    The event starts at 8 a.m. with a 5K/1 Mile Walk, followed by a parade at 11 a.m.
    An antique car, truck and tractor show will be held immediately after the parade with old-time music from the Pecka Band from 1:30-5 p.m. A tractor pull will be held from 2-5 p.m. north of the elevator and the “Jackpot” horse show will be held that afternoon on the edge of town.
    Ongoing activities will include a pie, bar and cookie social at the church, train rides in the afternoon and children's games.
    “They're planning laser tag, face painting and balloon twisting,” said Dahlen.
    A Mickey Park will also be on hand for the young visitors.
    The fun continues into the evening with fireworks at dusk and a street dance from 8 p.m. to midnight with the band “Wise Guys.” Food vendors will be on hand.
    The event officially wraps up Sunday with a church service at 10:30 a.m., followed by a potluck dinner.
    A brief history
    Janice and Arlan Dahlen have much reason to celebrate the upcoming centennial and the town's founder, Elling Dahlen.
    “Elling is my husband's great-grandfather,” said Janice. “He was from Norway. He settled here in Dakota Territory in 1881.”
    She said Dahlen Township was founded in 1884 and the Soo Line came through in 1912 and the town was officially organized.
    At one time, the town boasted a lumber yard, general store and numerous other businesses.
    “The mercantile was open until 1996,” Dahlen said. “The cafe was open until about two years ago. The owner passed away and no one took over.”
    She said there is still a thriving elevator in town, which will celebrate its 100th birthday next year, as well as an oil company and an active local church.
     
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