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Turkey legs

Mike Vettel, a member of the North Star Lions Club, watches over dozens of turkey legs cooking on a large barbecue grill as the line of hungry customers wait for the popular food item at the 45th annual Downtowners Street Fair in Bismarck on Friday. 

Organizers of the Downtowners Street Fair have, for some time, unofficially referred to the event as “Bismarck’s biggest reunion.”

“It’s that one time of year you kind of run into everybody,” said Downtowners COO Kate Herzog.

Herzog said it depends on the weather but, on average, 30,000 to 40,000 attend the two-day event — taking place Friday and Saturday — annually.

“It’s nice seeing the community gather,” said Dakota Timber Company manager Jack Hordorft from beneath his vendor tent.

Now in it’s 45th year, Herzog said the Downtowners work to provide fair-goers with new and different vendors and experiences. This year is no exception, with Dakota Timber being one of those first-time vendors.

Fargo-based Dakota Timber, a reclaimed wood and lumber business, opened a Bismarck location this summer at 3007 Morrison Ave. As a new addition to the community, manager Jack Hodorft said there are still many in town who don’t know about the business.

“There’s demand for this type of thing, but people don’t know where to get it,” he said, so the company used a booth at the street fair to get the word out.

TA number of new faces already had stopped by the tent a couple of hours into the event onFriday. Brittany Schultz said the slices of reclaimed boulevard trees, which Dakota Timber calls “cookie cuts” caught many attendees’ eyes.

Hodorft said the thin sections of tree trunk are popular as tabletops, nightstands and as hunting mounts. 

“One woman said she plans to turn it into a TV stand,” Schultz said.

Proof Artisan Distillers of Fargo were also out celebrating its first Bismarck Downtowners Street Fair.

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Proof Artisan Distillers

Matt Garvey, left, and Jamison Kath, right, from Fargo-based Proof Artisan Distillers, sell distilled spirits during the 45th annual Downtowners Street Fair in Bismarck on Friday. 

“This is spectacular,” said owner Joel Kath. “I really did not think it would be this lively before noon on a Friday … We’ll definitely be back again next year.”

Proof has participated in the Downtown Fargo Street Fair and Pride of Dakota events since opening three years ago, offering samples of spirits as a way to introduce offerings to a new audience.

Kath said many people like that Proof is a locally made product that uses locally grown ingredients: North Dakota potatoes, corn and barley.

For Kath, one of the more exciting parts is offering a product that isn’t what people expect.

“We get a lot of people who say 'I don’t like gin, but I like this,'” he said.

The street fair also pulls in local service clubs, such as the Prairie Rose Lions Club with its lefse, to serve food and fundraise.

The U.S. Army was a main event sponsor and set up a booth with basketball and a machine for attendees who want to make their own dog tags.

The city of Bismarck also is taking advantage of having so many residents gathered in one place to garner feedback on its proposed Strategic Plan.

"It's part of their strategy to go to people instead of people coming to them," Herzog said.

The city booth is on the west side of Fourth Street near the Makoche Studio.

“You’ll have the opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas on some key components of the Strategic Plan and to help guide the future of this tremendous community," Assistant City Administrator Jason Tomanek said in an email. "Stop by our booth and share your ideas to help make Bismarck even better than it already is .... The more feedback and input we receive, the stronger the Strategic Plan will be as a result."

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Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com

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Business Reporter