of Fargo Town Hall

In the Beginning

        Town Hall began in 1971 when Peggy Preston, after moving back to Fargo, expressed her regret that Fargo did not have a lecture series. Couple that with the Presbyterian Women's Association's wish to translate their Christian Concern into community action and Town Hall was founded with the idea that all profits would go towards local charities.
         Our first Town Hall President, Peggy Preston, writes: "The first few years were filled with hard work and selling tickets was probably the hardest job of all. We will be forever grateful to the out-of-town women who were so loyal and supported us during those early, difficult years. The most bittersweet feeling I ever had was when I was unable to a buy a ticket in 1990 because they were sold out!"
         "The first Town Hall program was held in the Fargo Theatre. Sam Levenson was our speaker. As we came to the theatre that morning, the marquee had the name of the movie that was currently playing: Joy in the Morning. "How appropriate," said Sam Levenson. "I predict that you will have many more happy mornings and Town Hall will be a success."  Sam's prediction has come true.
         The first Town Hall was held in the Fargo Theatre. Price for the complete series was $12 and tickets were sold by the Presbyterian Women. The luncheon was held at the Hilton Inn in Moorhead. Tickets were $2.35 and the menu was beef salad vineragette.

Enlightenment, Entertainment and Education
by Meagan Pittelko    Area Woman magazine, 2015

Comedians, authors, entertainers, and interesting people of other varieties have been coming to Fargo to speak for 44 years – and you may have been missing them this entire time.

                The First Presbyterian Church has invited a wide range of speakers to Fargo through the Town Hall Lecture series since 1971 -  thanks to a woman named Peggy Preston. Preston moved to Fargo and was disappointed to find that, unlike many other towns at the time, Fargo did not have a lecture series. With help from the Presbyterian Women’s Association, Town Hall was founded with the idea that all profits from the lectures would go to local charities, according to a Town Hall brochure.

                Although many dedicated guests attend the lectures each year, Ticket Chair Jan Harrison said that some members of the church are still surprised to hear about the Lecture Series. The entire Town Hall board agreed, though, that the Lecture Series has a positive impact on the community.

                “Our purpose, as it says in in our brochure,” says Harrison, “is to produce, promote and present a lecture series to the general public that enlightens, educates and entertains.”

                The nonprofit aims to bring fun and educational speakers to the Fargo area while giving back to the community. Since its inception, the Lecture Series has raised over half a million dollars, according to Publicity Chair Christine Kloubec.

                “We primarily give to women’s charities and food pantries,” Kloubec said. “We only give to local charities and we have a committee that determines which charities receive donations each year.”

                In addition to donating to local charities, the Lecture Series also promotes the thriving culture and community of Fargo – not only to its guests, but to its speakers as well.

                “We had one speaker, New York author Tom Santopietro,” Kloubec said, “who got this hat that said ‘Fargo’ on it. He still emails me sometimes, saying that people stop him on the street and ask if he’ really been here.”

                Former president Judy Rippentrop agreed, saying that speakers and guests from other regions of the country are often impressed with Fargo and the surrounding area.

                In the past, speakers have included Winston Churchill Jr., Robert Kennedy Jr., Richard Simmons, Flip Wilson, Art Linkletter, Steve Hartman, Rick Steves and Becky Gulsvig.

                The one hour lectures have brought in between 900 and 1300 guests over the years, many of whom also attend a Q&A lunch following each lecture, according to Kloubec.

                The lunch afterwards is often a highlight,” Harrison said. “It allows people to make really personal connections with the speakers.”


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