N.D. first lady plans tea party for military families

BISMARCK—First lady Betsy Dalrymple is hosting a holiday tea party for families of deployed service members Saturday afternoon at the governor’s residence.

About 65 families were invited to attend the party, which will include tea, apple cider and Christmas goodies, said Dan Murphy, a spokesman for the North Dakota National Guard.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk will also attend.

The goal is to let these families know that they’re remembered during the holiday season, Murphy said.

“I think it’s very important to recognize, first of all, family during this time of the season and, to go a step further, those military families that are separated this time of year,” he said. “This gives an opportunity for everybody to get together, have a little fellowship and for the first lady and the governor to spread a little holiday cheer.”

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

The state Christmas tree lighting is Monday at the Capitol. This year’s tree is a 25-foot balsam fir from northwestern Wisconsin, said North Dakota Council on the Arts spokeswoman Amy Schmidt.

My colleagues at the Grand Forks Herald asked me to find out why the state tree isn’t harvested in North Dakota.

I called Bob Harsel with the North Dakota Forest Service in Lisbon. He said there are a few places in North Dakota that grow balsam firs, but they aren’t too adaptable since the trees like more acidic soil than what’s found here.

“In places, you might find a few, but they’re pretty rare as far as a Christmas tree (here),” he said.

The firs are considered “the Cadillac of the Christmas tree,” Harsel said. The official White House Christmas tree is also a balsam fir from Wisconsin, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

I also called Jody Link in the governor’s office, who did some research. The state contracts with Cashman Nursery in Bismarck, which finds the tree and takes care of it, she said.

The state has used balsam firs for 35 years after experimenting with various types of trees, Link said. They prefer the balsam fir primarily because of its height and strong branches to hold all of the state ornaments, she said. This year, 261 ornaments were donated to the state tree.

The state also needs a tree that can stay up for a longer time and doesn’t have a lot of needles falling off, Link said.

Wisconsin is the closest and best location for getting the trees, and a lot of other states go to Wisconsin for these trees as well, she said.

Dear Teri,

Brad Elliott Schlossman’s blog about UND freshman Colton St. Clair got my mind working overtime. As I understand it, Mr. St. Clair was declared ineligible to play because they had a problem with some of his high school credits.

This is not a letter about Mr. St. Clair. Rather, it is a general question: Are athletes required to meet the same admission criteria as nonathletes?

UND has always been slightly different than other schools in that it prides itself in its student athletes’ academic accomplishments. We routinely have a number of students that are not only world class athletes but accomplished scholars as well.

With all of the animosity regarding the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, I think it is important to remember that UND is a university that happens to field a number of excellent sports teams.

When these roles become reversed, and we become a sports team disguised as an institution of higher learning, we will no longer be worthy of support.

I graduated from UND in 2005 with a BA from the honors program and will graduate in May of next year with a MS in aviation.

Paul Cline

Thanks for writing! I contacted University of North Dakota spokesman Peter Johnson. He said athletes are required to meet the same admission criteria as nonathletes.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, N.D. 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

N.D. holiday tourism events

BISMARCK — The state Tourism Division suggests these family-friendly events this holiday season.

15th annual Medora’s Old Fashioned Cowboy Christmas

Medora

Dec. 3-4

Cowboys and cowgirls of all ages come together for the 15th annual event. Activities include wreath ceremony, musical entertainment, eats on the steet, cowboy poetry and fireworks display. http://www.medorandchamber.com/ 701-623-4910.

Frontier Winter at Fort Union

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, near Williston

Dec. 4-5

Journey to Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site for a hands-on look at frontier life. The Fort Union Muzzle Loaders will occupy Fort Union, acting the role of American Fur Company employees during the winter. www.nps.gov/fous/index.htm.   701-572-9083

Custer Christmas

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, Mandan

Dec. 11-12

Experience an 1875 Christmas with General Custer on the Dakota prairie. Sing carols and make cookies and decorations. www.fortlincoln.com 701-667-6380.

Christmas at the Confluence

Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center, Williston

Dec. 12

Enjoy a wonderful winter concert, make your own hand-crafted ornaments and enjoy special treats during this special Christmas at the Confluence. 701-572-9034

Holiday Train

Hankinson, Enderlin, Harvey, Minot, Carpio

Dec. 15-16

Lighted Canadian Pacific Train rolls through North Dakota with stops in several North Dakota towns. On-board musical entertainment at each stop.  http://www.ndtourism.com/whatdo/events/festival-details.asp?AID=4230

Holly Jolly Zoo Days

Red River Zoo, Fargo

Dec. 18-19

Take the family to the zoo this holiday season and enjoy a variety of holiday activities, visit with Santa Claus, ride the carousel then finish up with hot cocoa and cookies. http://www.redriverzoo.org/ 701-277-9240

Papa’s Polar Patch

Papa’s Pumpkin Patch, Bismarck

Dec. 26-Jan. 3

Visitors of all ages will discover snow-covered bale mazes and caves, old-fashioned sled rides, horse-drawn sleigh rides, Slide Mountain, the Polar Pond ice-skating rink, Papas’ville and more. http://www.papaspolarpatch.com/. 701-224-1253.

These are just some of the North Dakota activities and events in December. For more information, go to NDtourism.com