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Prosper, N.D., centennial resembles family reunion

David Samson / Forum Communications Co. A replica of the Prosper Farmers Co-op Elevator parades past the real stucture during the town's centennial celebration last Saturday. The day featured a parade, food, games and fun for the residents and visitors.

PROSPER, N.D. -- Relaxing in the shade on a nearby picnic table, a smile creeps across 80-year-old Perla Backstrom's face as she recognizes former students from her days as a teacher here in a two-room schoolhouse.

"These are my kids. At least that's what I always called them. They were the best bunch I've ever had," she said.

It may be more than 50 years since Backstrom last taught in Prosper, but the city's Saturday Centennial Celebration felt more like a "family reunion" than a 100-year mark for the Cass County farming community.

Located 20 miles northwest of Fargo, the all-day celebration brought in about 1,000 people to the city with a population of 23 and a grain elevator.

After a morning that included a 5K run/walk and a parade showcasing 150 floats, the day quickly transformed into an afternoon of food, games and local talent.

Carl Peterson, 53, was one such star in the afternoon variety show. Sitting on stage with a keyboard in front of him, Peterson belted out a showtune-styled anthem dedicated to Prosper that received a standing ovation from the crowd.

For Peterson, who owns Peterson Farms Seed just a few hundred yards down the road from the activities, it wasn't all that difficult to write a song for the place he calls home.

"You hear all the time about how people hate little towns because everybody knows everything about everybody," he said. "But here, it's a close-knit place, and we all look out for each other. It really feels like a family."

Peterson was joined by a number of local acts. The Rust Family Singers, a Von-Trapp-style group that included at least 30 singers, led the seated Prosper crowd in a rendition of "This Little Light of Mine."

The Rust family has deep roots in the community, back to when the area was first settled. Seventeen-year-old Andrina Brogden , a member of the Rust family, said growing up three miles down the road in Prosper has made her appreciate the benefits of a small town.

"Everybody knows each other's family. Heck, most of them are related through marriage here or there," she said. "And this just makes us very close, very protective of each other, and we all have a good time together."

With a dunk tank, Nerf-gun tag and numerous carnival attractions, the young and old were busy having fun and catching up on how the area has changed.

Maari Larsen Loy, a member of the Centennial Committee, said the historical aspect is one of the best parts of the celebration.

"So many people came back, and what you get is an image of Prosper 50 or 60 years ago that you never knew," she said. "We've gotten a tsunami of support from people, and it is great to see all ages enjoying today."

Dane Larsen, Maari's father, said six generations of Larsens grew up in Prosper. A member of the Centennial Committee, too, he said he couldn't believe how many people came back for the celebration, which concludes today with a church service and meal.

"I thought maybe we'd get 60 people to the parade, and we ended up with like 1,000," he said. "It is just incredible that these people have such faith and connection to Prosper."

Megan Card is a reporter

at The Forum of Fargo-

Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.