WILLOW CITY They may be more than 1,400 miles apart, but Willow City and the Texas community that shares its name have plenty in common.
Both were named for the willows that grow along the banks of the creeks running through their localities. Both have a rural flavor due to their locations in farming and ranching areas. So it was natural that last year the two Willow City communities connected to become sister cities.
North Dakota's Willow City has invited residents of its sister city to help celebrate its 125th anniversary June 28 to July 1. Three couples responded with plans to attend, and the Texans sent ahead signs with their congratulations that will be erected downtown.
Some of the members of Willow City’s centennial committee display a sign that was a gift from their Texas sister city. From left are (front) Veronica Biberdorf, Marilyn Larson, David Larson, Judie Albright, (back) Darlene Syvertson, Conrad Schuster, Sherwood Haakenson, Diana Sanderson and Sonja Kana.
Coincidentally, the year 1887 is historically significant for both communities. The year that Willow City was founded in Bottineau County also was the year that Willow, Texas, established with a post office in 1877, officially changed its name to Willow City, according to historical accounts.
Sonja Kana of Willow City said contact was made with Willow City, Texas, after discovering that they are the only two communities by that name in the United States.
Willow City, Texas, no longer is an incorporated city, although it continues to have an identity and a thriving Community Club. The last census in 2000 showed 75 residents. The community is located in a ranching and tourism area in central Texas. It is situated along the scenic hill country of Willow City Loop, known for its flowering bluebonnets.
Willow City, N.D., had a 2010 population of 163. Both communities saw growth early in their histories, followed by a period of decline. The school in Willow City, N.D., closed in 2003. The school in Willow City, Texas, consolidated with a neighboring district in 1961.
Kana said the anniversary celebration will include a reception for their Texas guests and the flying of the Texas flag. Their guests have been asked to bring items from their community for a display. One of the expected Texan guests is a noted auctioneer who will be auctioning the glass art of a former Willow City, N.D., resident at the reception.
The North Dakotans also sent a quilt made by a local quilting group to a family in Willow City, Texas, who lost their home in a fire. Kana said some local residents are making plans to travel to Texas for an anniversary celebration that's coming up for their sister city.
The quasquicentennial celebration for Willow City, N.D., kicks off Thursday, June 28, at 7 p.m. in Redwing Hall with a musical program, meet-and-greet with sister city residents and a dessert social.
Events on Friday include alumni gatherings in the afternoon, a WCHS alumni program at 4 p.m. in Redwing Hall, followed by a catered mal at 6 p.m. near the Willow City Community Hall. Notre Dame Academy alumni will hold a supper at 5 p.m. in the Parish Center. The evening concludes with a street dance at 9 p.m.
Saturday will bring a WCHS alumni social, petting zoo and kids' games and clown entertainment on Main Street and an antique tractors and vehicles show. A parade starts at 1:30 p.m. People still can register to participate by calling Dick Anderson at 366-4625.
A beef barbecue supper will be served from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Community Hall. A demolition derby will take place at 4:30 p.m. southeast of town. People can enter by calling Tracey Hall at 366-4749.
A Saturday social will take place in Redwing Hall at 7:30 p.m., along with another street dance at 9 p.m.
Other activities taking place Friday and Saturday include a quilt show, music at the Gazebo, photo displays, souvenir sales and concessions.
Sunday's schedule includes breakfast in the Community Hall and church services at First Lutheran and Notre Dame Catholic churches at 9 a.m. Other Sunday morning events are a horse show and hymn sing-along under the tent.