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