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Think Global, Act Local: Five Years Of Folkways

Photo By Hillary Ehlen

Esteemed Readers:

Happy New Year! This new decade is full of promises for our region but before projecting ourselves in this new horizon let us reflect on memorable moments that made this region special.

In July 2015, when I started working for Folkways with Joe Burgum and Simone Wai, I could not imagine the impact it would have on my community lens. Folkways allowed me to reimagine my sense of belonging in any new community I call home and foremost it boosted my sense of agency when shaping the culture of a region with pride and passion.

2020 marks the fifth anniversary since Folkways started officially as a social venture. However, Simone and Joe have been impacting the region for over a decade just Folkways allowed people to have a reference. Otherwise, their devotion to making the Red River Valley the best place on earth to live predates Folkways’ existence.

When people ask me why I chose to stay in Fargo after graduating from Concordia College: I simply answer because Folkways gave me the opportunity to make an impact in the Red River Valley by trusting me, empowering me and giving me the tools to become the best community liaison I could be.

Therefore I raise a cup of fresh northern prairie snow to Folkways’ team and the world-class memorable events they have curated and I look forward to many more to come that will put Fargo on the global map again and again!


Alexandre Cyusa

What is Folkways?

Over the last five years, Folkways has designed programming and events with the intention of creating vibrant places and a greater sense of belonging among community members. Outcomes of their work include increased quality of life for all residents and a boost to our local economy through their creation of marketplaces for small business owners and artisans. Their programming has been instrumental in facilitating culture creation in our region, which has led to the attraction and retention of visitors and neighbors.

Folkways has been called a social enterprise and a community collective, but they like to think of themselves as a Chamber of Culture.

Folkways’ Signature Events

In the summer and fall, thousands of community members gather to shop with local farmers, makers and artists at the Red River Market, our region’s largest farmers’ market. In addition to over 60 vendors every Saturday, visitors enjoy three live performances and a cooking demonstration, along with various activities for kids. The market venue is also home to Night Bazaar, a live music and performance event that’s like a circus- meets-block party. You may have visited their most recent event, Christkindlmarkt, at Drekker Brewing Company.

Christkindlmarkt transports visitors into a European-inspired winter wonderland that celebrates the warmth of the holiday season.

2019 Highlights

Many find it difficult to embrace change, but in 2019 Folkways welcomed it with open arms. This year, they moved three of their largest events to new locations. They said goodbye to Broadway Garage, the former home of their pop-up plaza venue on Broadway and 4th Avenue N,

and built out a new space at 63 5th Street N, across from Forum Communications’ headquarters in Downtown Fargo. They painted murals, built a stage, installed turf and plants and arranged seating and the community responded by making it their best season at the Red River Market and Night Bazaar to date. Also, Christkindlmarkt moved to Drekker Brewing Company’s gorgeous historic building on 1st Avenue N, where they built a Christmas village inspired by traditional German holiday markets.

This year, community members attended 86 live performances by local musicians, dancers and entertainers, and supported 103 locally-owned businesses through Folkways’ events.

Vision For The Next Five Years

The first five years have been an incredible journey of experimentation and implementation, and with that same inquisitive energy, their team has big dreams for the next five years. Currently, they are developing an immersive experience to reframe the way that our community engages with and speaks about winter, snow and darkness.

In 2021, they will bring the Red River Market to its new home at the now- developing Block 9 Plaza in Downtown Fargo. Having a home with a permanent plaza it will allow them to provide even more free family programming during the event.

Over the next five years, they’re inspired to increase participation in the Canoe Parade, a water pageant on the Red River. They plan to host more canoe and kayak decoration workshops and commission more artists to create floats that will attract visitors from across the region.

How You Can Join In The Fun

Folkways creates experiences that can be enjoyed by adults and youth alike. Upholding a “participatory spirit” as one of their values, Folkways wants you to engage in the community with a childlike curiosity. For example, at Night Bazaar you have a chance to become a part of the story of the evening as it unfolds. When you arrive, you have the choice to observe and consume, or step in and take part. Those who engage with artists, pick up a hula hoop or have their fortune told will leave with a richer, more memorable experience than those who simply walked through.

Folkways’ events are anchored in a mission that’s focused on creating shared experiences and community connections. Toward this end, they set up 140 chairs and 60 tables at all of their events, so you can make new friends, or catch up with old ones. According to their visitor surveys, 85% of event attendees recognize someone whom they know but did not plan on seeing.

Join Folkways in 2020:

  • February Winter Market: February 8th, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Moorhead Center Mall
  • Red River Market 2020 Season: July 11th – October 31st
  • Christkindlmarkt: November 19 22nd
  • Night Bazaar and Canoe Parade: Dates to be Announced

What can the community do to help?

Folkways events are truly built by the community. Each spring, volunteers come together to paint and stain furniture and plant donated flowers to bring venues to life. Countless volunteers continue through the summer and fall to greet visitors and work at information booths. To join their volunteer list, send them an email at

Additionally, as a fiscally hosted project of Impact Foundation, Red River Market participates in Giving Hearts Day on February 13th. Donations fund free community programming, including live music and cultural performances; free kids and family activities; educational experiences and cooking demonstrations. Donations also fund the SNAP/EBT Double Bucks program that matches purchases made by those using food assistance. Consider donating to Red River Market on February 13th.

Folkways Timeline

June 2013 – First Alley Fair event, organized by a group of volunteers including Joe Burgum and Simone Wai of Folkways. Alley Fair came to life in two additional events that took place in September 2013 and September 2014.

February 2015 – Joe Burgum, Simone Wai and Dane Johnson create Folkways.

April 2015 – Folkways begins hosting house concerts to support up-and- coming local musicians with all-ages events. Twenty house concerts were held over three years, inviting approximately 800 attendees to intimate musical performances.

July 2015 – Red River Market opens for its first season, organized by a group of

volunteers with Folkways’ support. The first season hosted a dozen vendors on 2nd Avenue and Broadway.

November 2015 – Folkways opens The Waffle Room, a two-day waffle pop-up shop.

December 2015 – The first Christkindlmarkt event takes place at Twenty Below Coffee Co. with 1,000 attendees over two days.

January 2016 – Log the Mobile Sauna launches at Frostival, hosting 40 guests in a mobile wood-fired barrel sauna.

January 2016 – Folkways launches CO.STARTERS, a small business development course. Folkways hosted CO.STARTERS classes until June of 2018, serving over 100 participants. The course is now operated by NDSU’s entrepreneurship hub, The Nice Center. (Applications for cohorts in 2020 now open at:

July 2016 Red River Market moves to Broadway Garage.

September 2017- The first Canoe Parade embarked, a pageant of decorated canoes and kayaks on the Red River.

November 2017 – Christkindlmarkt moves to the Stone Building.

June 2018 – Folkways hosts the first Night Bazaar, a live music and performance event. There have since been seven Night Bazaars.

January 2019 – Red River Market becomes a fiscally hosted project of Impact Foundation.

July 2019 – Red River Market is now home to 60 weekly vendors, welcoming 8,000 visitors each Saturday.

December 2019 – Christkindlmarkt moves to Drekker Brewing Company and sees 13,000 visitors over four days.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.

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