Fargo police face downtown logistical challenge with marathon events getting underway ThursdayFARGO -– Fargo. Bismarck. Grand Forks. Minot. West Fargo. On Saturday morning, the next largest city in North Dakota will be congregated on the Main Avenue Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead when runners line up for the Fargo Marathon events.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum News Service, INFORUM
FARGO -– Fargo. Bismarck. Grand Forks. Minot. West Fargo. On Saturday morning, the next largest city in North Dakota will be congregated on the Main Avenue Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead when runners line up for the Fargo Marathon events.
“You’re looking at the combined populations of Wahpeton and Jamestown on that bridge,” said Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel. “This is an event that truly is a different animal.”
The warning has been issued for a while now: Participants need to get to their respective athlete villages early or risk not starting on time. The Friday night 5K run/walk is not going to be a zip in, zip out proposition, either.
An estimated 8,000 participants are expected for the 7 p.m. start on First Avenue North adjacent to the Fargo Public Library. The 5K run/walk ends at Island Park.
These are not areas that normally draw that many people at one time. Combined with the normal 5 p.m. outflow traffic from downtown Fargo, it could make for a logistical challenge. Another 1,000 people are expected downtown later in the evening for the Arlo Guthrie concert at the Fargo Theatre.
“We’ll have some congestion down there,” Vettel said. “But the good thing on Friday is, it will be after that rush-hour period. That will be helpful. At that time of day, typically by Friday by 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., things have greatly reduced.”
Vettel anticipates many businesses will remain open on Friday with so many people in the downtown area, which could help lessen the 5 p.m. traffic rush hour. He asked that participants who park around Island Park and walk to the starting line adhere to traffic signals, especially crossing Main Avenue.
“If people have the expectation of pulling up five minutes before the race, jump out and walk to the start from Island Park will be sadly mistaken,” Vettel said. “No matter what race you’re in, try to get there early.”
As for leaving Island Park at the conclusion of the 5K, he anticipates people floating in and out at a regular pace.
“I don’t think that will be as big of an issue,” Vettel said.
Free shuttle buses for runners with a bib number from various points in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo (check the website at www.fargomarathon.com) will be offered on Saturday only.
The weekend races kick off Thursday night with the annual Youth Run starting at 7 p.m. at the same First Avenue site as the 5K. Like the 5K Friday, downtown traffic is expected to be slowed.
About 2,000 kids are expected for the 1-mile and ½-mile races.
“Then along with that you have the numerous adults to herd them,” Vettel said. “The biggest impact will be at the 6:30 hour until about 8.”
The main event, however, is Saturday.
Vettel said he’s heard people comparing the marathon being held downtown to ESPN’s “College Game Day” football pre-game show that came to town last fall or the annual Street Fair every July. Be prepared for something on a much larger scale, he said.
“This is far different,” he said.
He suggests spectators who want to be near the finish line on Fourth Avenue North and Broadway use alternate ways to get downtown, such as the metro bus system, bicycle or walk. In reference to the largest cities in North Dakota, Vettel estimates downtown Fargo later Saturday morning will be the fourth largest in the state.
“That’s pretty incredible,” he said. “This is the largest event in our city every year.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found