Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What’s with all those dangling bras in downtown Fargo? November 8, 2012

SO…MY HUSBAND and I are driving through downtown Fargo Saturday afternoon, en route to Zandbroz Variety because I want to see Lake Region Review on bookshelves there. Sometimes I am vain like that. But I’ve had poetry published in the first two volumes of LRR and, as any writer will tell you, there’s a certain thrill in seeing a book, which includes your work, shelved and for sale.

I digress.

Before we reach Zandbroz, which rates as a quite cool variety store, we pass the Hotel Donaldson, locally referenced as the HoDo. This stately brick building anchoring the corner of First Avenue North and Broadway in the heart of downtown Fargo was built in 1893 as an Odd Fellows Lodge. Today it’s been transformed into a hotel, cultural and entertainment center and fine dining establishment. Not that I’ve been inside; I’ve only read this.

My first view of Bras on Broadway at the HoDo.

And for the month of October and apparently into November, the HoDo has become the canvas for Bras on Broadway.

Looking up on the First Avenue side of the bras dangling from the HoDo.

Yes, you read that correctly. The exterior of the HoDo is adorned/decorated/covered (choose your verb) in strings of bras reaching from rooftop to first floor window level.

The Bras on Broadway art installment on the corner of First Avenue North and Broadway.

Fortunately, as we approach the HoDo, the stoplight turns red, thus allowing me enough time for a quick photo shoot while we wait and then turn the corner onto Broadway. I try not to think about the mist as I stick my camera out the van window and aim the lens upward, hoping I will get a few publishable shots.

Turning onto Broadway, I shoot this scene of Bras on Broadway.

With no parking spaces available, I will figure out what the whole bra thing is about later. And so, at the variety store, I ask, “What’s going on with all the bras on that building?”

“It’s Bras on Broadway at the HoDo, raising funds for breast cancer,” I am informed, but do not press for details given Zandbroz is teeming with shoppers.

According to the Bras on Broadway website, the event “supports those in our area fighting breast cancer by providing accommodations, gas cards and wigs.” Last year $102,000 was donated to the American Cancer Society, bringing the six-year donations total to $264,000. (I couldn’t find a total for 2012.)

This October marks the seventh annual Bras on Broadway with monies raised in a variety of ways: For a minimum $5 and donation of “any old bra,” a bra can be added to the garlands of bras. Teams and individuals collect bras and monetary gifts. Sales of event related merchandise go toward the cause. Artists reinvent wearable and non-wearable bras that are auctioned off.

The Broadway side of the HoDo exhibit.

All of this Bras on Broadway fundraising apparently is finished for this year. Even so, I want to share this story and photos with you because, wow, something like thousands of bras dangling from an historic building in Fargo, of all places, grabs your attention.

And get this, Bras on Broadway hosted a “Deck the Bras” event at the Fargo Civic Center where anyone could bring bras and enhance them with bling and trinkets for the HoDo installment. The mobile mammography truck from the local medial center also showed up at the decorating party.

One final shot of Bras on Broadway as we drive past the HoDo.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the first two volumes of the regional literary journal Lake Region Review are stocked at Zandbroz Variety, 420 Broadway, just blocks from the Bras on Broadway at the HoDo.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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19 Responses to “What’s with all those dangling bras in downtown Fargo?”

  1. cecilia Says:

    What happens if it gets windy!! That would be a tangle.. how thrilling to see your work on a shelf like that.. congratulations again audrey..

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      C, if you look in the first photo, you will see wire strung along the bottom. The bras are attached to this. In Fargo, with all that wind, it most definitely would be a tangled mess without that wire.

      It is a thrill to see my work on the shelf, albeit my poem is only one in the collection of some fine, fine writing.

      Readers, you need to check out C’s blog. She’s a fantastic blogger and is currently working on the novel-in-a-month challenge.

  2. What a neat idea. I wouldn’t think I would like to see bras dangling off a building, but from a distance it looks like ribbons. Such fun and for a good cause, too.

  3. Caryl L. Says:

    That actually looks very cool.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I agree. Very cool. I just found this info online: The 2012 Bras on Broadway event raised $134,000. Incredible.

  4. Allan Landman Says:

    A new “Braway Play”. Wonder what the “reviews” will be like. :)

  5. Thanks for these awesome pics!! I am just happened to run across your comment and pics about Bras on Broadway. I was there “supporting” this great cause…My daughter… Janell was one of the beautiful models! I am so very proud of her for all her and how she works daily to get the word out and to help others walking the breast cancer journey! She was diagonised 3 years ago today….She is cancer free and ALIVE and WELL and paying it foward! Thanks for the pics…I can see her bra that she decorated hanging proudly with the rest!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      So happy that your Janell is cancer-free after three years and paying it forward. I am so impressed by the amount of money ($134,000 this year alone) raised through Bras on Broadway. You certainly have an eagle eye to pick out Janell’s bra among all those suspended from the HoDo.

      Sharing these pix and this story is the least I can do in the fight against breast cancer. My mother is a survivor, too.

  6. Congrats!!! Great post – thanks for sharing a great cause – love the pics! Have a Great One:)

  7. Sara K. Says:

    Great post and I’m glad to see Bob thought so too!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks, Sara. Readers, Sara is referring to Bob Collins referencing this post this a.m. in the 5×8 section of his News Cut column online at Minnesota Public Radio. Thus far I’ve gotten 102 “hits” from Bob’s posting a link to Bras on Broadway. Thanks, Bob.

  8. Miranda Says:

    They did something similar in Appleton a few weeks ago called “Bras Across the Bridge”.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for tipping me off to this. I did a quick online search and see this Bras Across the Bridge was also done in Green Bay.

  9. What will they think of next?!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      My second daughter, who lives in northeastern Wisconsin, said they did a similar project in Appleton, stringing bras along the bridge. I believe the HoDo is planning something with men’s underwear early next year to promote awareness of prostrate cancer. I think I read that somewhere. I mean, I don’t think I could dream up that idea.


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