LEITH, N.D. — Before a white supremacist invasion put the small town of Leith on the map, its friendliness did.
On Saturday, the town celebrated getting its friendly self back with a small parade, old-time foods like kuchen and fleischkuechle and friends gathering to laugh and visit in the shade of old buildings on main street.
It was a lovely day, occasioned by the 105th anniversary of Leith's founding as a prairie town served by a railroad that no longer runs through.
It was a day to remember and reminisce and there was no forgetting the town's most unwanted citizen, Craig Cobb, who lived in a small house, flew Nazi flags, spewed hate toward residents and upended normalcy.
Cobb's gone now after a stint in jail, and former residents like Ervin Mund of Bismarck were happy to show the grandkids where he grew up and the corner building where his mom was the postmistress back in the day.
"We came to support Leith and show the grandkids the old house and the old jail — we always played in it," he said.
His grandkids collected a 10-pound bag of parade candy and showed off their cartwheels on the gravel street.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock drove a team of horses and a mockup territorial jail wagon in the parade.
"It's the end of a long year," Schock said, referring to Cobb's announcement last August that he planned to take over Leith government and create an all-white enclave. Schock worked hard with the town council to control the situation.
He said the town looked great with the grass all mowed, flags flying and old abandoned buildings removed and covered over.
"It was sad to see the history go, but maybe now there's room here for somebody normal," he said.
Pat Hauge of Leith was at the old theater, now a town hall, where pie and decorated cupcakes were set out for sale.
"I'm here to celebrate that Leith is free of Nazi thoughts and people. It's so nice to see the American flag flying rather than the swastika," Hauge said.
Arlene Wells put together Leith history books for display and said she was saddened to see so many of the town's buildings removed, including the old Gottleiber's creamery that stood next to Cobb's former house and that he'd deeded over to a neo-Nazi sympathizer.
Bobby and Sherrill Harper of Leith enjoyed the parade and visiting with friends and well-wishers. Bobby Harper is black and he and his wife endured the worst of Cobb's racist put-downs.
"It's taken a toll on all of us, but today I feel so happy and proud of Leith," Sherrill Harper said.
Nettie Ketterling brought on extra help at the bar and said everyone worked hard to get ready for Saturday's celebration.
The Cobb chapter seems almost surreal looking back, but the town learned something about itself.
"He thought we were just a bunch of dumb hayseeds around here that didn't know nothing, but he found out differently," Ketterling said.
The mayor opened up the old post office for people who wanted another look and everyone settled in for the evening dancing still to come.
"Everybody likes to party in Leith and it's been that way ever since I was a kid," he said.
Happy birthday and party on, Leith. It's been a year for the history books.