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Williston’s ‘Chokecherry Kids’ reflect on state fruit legislation 15 years later

The "Chokecherry Kids" with then-governor John Hoeven and local state legislators in 2007
The "Chokecherry Kids" with then-governor John Hoeven and local state legislators in 2007(Tami Enget)
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 3:45 PM CDT
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WILLISTON, N.D. - Prunus Virginiana, the chokecherry. It’s a fruit used by Indian tribes to make pemmican and is a hardy fruit that withstood the worst of the Dust Bowl. Because of its long history, a group of students at Rickard Elementary knew it would be the perfect candidate for North Dakota’s state fruit.

“They were in the area, and it was just something that us kids could grasp on to and run with and our teacher gave us a voice too, which was really awesome,” said Hailey Passley

What began as a simple persuasive writing project turned into learning how a bill becomes a law. Students in Nancy Selby’s sixth-grade class, now known as the “Chokecherry Kids,” spent more than a year working to make the chokecherry North Dakota’s state fruit, eventually lobbying and speaking at the state Capitol.

“I remember prepping for it, having my sheet of what I was going to write,” said Lexie Clark.

On March 29, 2007, Governor John Hoeven signed Senate Bill 2145, naming the Chokecherry as North Dakota’s state fruit.

“I started to cry. It was just emotional to see the commitment of these kids,” said Selby.

Williston’s Chokecherry Festival, on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 13-14, honors that accomplishment, and some of the “Chokecherry Kids” still visit to see how the festival has evolved over the years. For them, this event shows that making change isn’t just for adults.

“I just want it to be a learning lesson or a teaching lesson teacher for kids that their voice does matter. Putting in the time and effort like we did, we studied up on it and kids can make an impact too,” said Clark.

Selby says she still stays connected with the chokecherry kids. Passley and Clark say it’s thanks to Selby, aka their “Chokecherry Momma” believing in them that made this a reality.

The Chokecherry Festival goes on Friday and Saturday at Spring Lake Park.

For a list of times and events, visit the Williston CVB Facebook page.

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