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The biggest story of the year in Bowman County was the impact that a global pandemic had on the small rural region of southwestern North Dakota.

It forced the businesses, the schools, the state and local governments to change everything about life in the Peace Garden State.

July

The first COVID-19 drive up testing in Bowman County drew hundreds to the fairgrounds Tuesday. It also drew a big blank. Zero. Zed. Nil. After the testing was completed and the results released, Bowman County’s total remained the same as it has for months – one positive case of Coronavirus.

The Hettinger/Scranton/Bowman/Lemmon Bears split a home doubleheader June 21, closing out their regular season before playing in the district playoff. The Bears finished the regular season with a 15-10-2 record and opened the playoffs Monday (July 27) in Beulah. The team is a comprised of players from Bowman, Hettinger, Scranton and Lemmon (S.D.).

Southwestern North Dakota is in the middle of a moderate drought. Those conditions, although not as drastic as in other parts of the state, still have a big impact on the agriculture and livestock in both Bowman and Slope counties, according to the NDSU extension agents. The shortfall in precipitation has included Bowman and Slope counties, according to Shelby Hewson, the NDSU extension specialist in Amidon.

For the Bowman County Development Commission, there were seven chances to find a dream. And they even provided maps for the visitors to track down some local treasures and places to build their own dreams. The driving and walking tour of Bowman commercial properties was designed to show off the chances for people to dream again and find homes for new businesses, according to the members of the county development commission. The “On the Market” tour started July 13 in the now-vacant ShopKo building along Highway 12, then moved downtown to the former Sears building, Hibachi House, Dales, Hawks Landing, Schmit’s and finally the Super Valu where it ended with grilled hamburgers and hot dogs served up in its parking lot.

August

The Bowman fall sports calendar may look a little empty with cancellations as the schools cautiously reopen their fall sports programs. The opening football boys’ varsity meeting with Oakes slated for Aug. 22 has been canceled. However, the varsity has scheduled at trip to Belfield High School at 2 p.m. instead. The junior high and high school football practices are scheduled to begin Aug. 10 at the school, while the cross-country program also holds its first practice at 8 a.m.

In the new age of COVID, the Bowman County School Board has approved a plan to prepare for the start of school which focuses on flexibility as well as stressing the need for a heightened awareness of the need for cleanliness. The dark, empty hallways at Bowman County High School will soon be filled with students and staff as the school board unanimously approved draft plans to guide the school district.

Former state senator Bill Bowman died Saturday at the age of 74. Services will be held Saturday at the United Methodist Church in Bowman. He was a member of the North Dakota State Senate for nearly 30 years, serving as the 39th District’s representative from 1990 until 2018.

Volunteers handed out more than 150 boxes of fresh produce in less than an hour in the 4 Seasons Pavilion parking lot. The flatbed trailer was empty by 5:45 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 27). It was part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box program.

September

A block. A foot. And a drop. That is what led to Bowman County knocking off the fourth-ranked team in the state Friday (Sept. 4) with a too-close 21-20 upset in the regional opener for the Bulldogs on their home field. The block was in the third quarter when an extra-point attempt failed and left the visiting Titans with a 20-14 lead.

The battle strategy against the Coronavirus has changed in North Dakota. Earlier in the year, Gov. Doug Burgum unveiled a color-based risk level graph as a way to fight the pandemic in the state. He now has changed to battle plan to make the risk-level tied to a specific county or region because of recent dramatic increases in positive tests for the virus.

The Fusion Conference organizers have decided to reschedule Fusion 2020 to September 15-16, 2021. With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the increasing uncertainty, and the constant changes occurring in our region and the state of North Dakota, the organizers felt they could no longer move forward with the conference as planned.

The Bowman County School District approved its budget for the 2020-2021 school year during Wednesday’s (Sept. 9) meeting in Rhame. The new budget shows an increase to $7,902,708, according to Superintendent Wayne Heckaman. There is an increase of almost $37,000 from its 2019-2020 budget, the superintendent said.

October

Bowman County Commissioners cut the budget for 2021 to meet the expected shortfall in revenues from the state and other fees at its meeting Oct. 6 in the county building. The $8.3 million budget for 2020 was pared down to $6.71 million at the meeting, with the approval of all five commissioners.

The Bowman Fire Department had a successful Sunday meal – with more than 400 people stopping by the fire hall on First Street for a Sausage and Pancake breakfast. According to Fire Chief Chad Welch, the people had a choice between sitting in a bay converted into a large dining area or stopping by for a curbside pick up.

The Bowman County Bulldogs made a familiar foe pay the price when they relentlessly hammered the Richardton-Taylor-Hebron Raiders to a 46-0 halftime lead. Oct. 9 on the road. That ended up being the final regular season game of the year for the Bulldogs.

North Dakota has been hit by a dramatic spike in positive COVID test results and fatalities, which has catapulted the Peace Garden State to the top of the national outbreak. And Bowman County has been hit harder, even though it has less than half of one percent of the state’s population According to state statistics, North Dakota has a population of slightly more than 760,000 while the county has barely more than 3,000 people. Bowman County has hit a high of 13.59 percent in the 14-day rolling percentage of positivity on Saturday, Oct. 17.

For Brian Miller, it was a perfect ending to his season and his high school cross-country career. He won the state Class B individual cross country championship Saturday running on a course he had never seen before. “I made my move in the last thousand meters,” he said Saturday evening as he packed up his gear at Bowman County High School and prepared to go home.

November

The voters of Bowman and Slope counties have been busy – even before Election Day. According to the Bowman County auditor’s office, approximately 88 percent of the requested absentee ballots had been returned by 9 a.m. Monday, with more coming in by the minute.

North Dakota has reported the most COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita in the nation. That deadly spike has prompted some hospitals in the state to postpone elective surgeries and is reportedly putting an unsustainable strain on the availability of health care workers, according to state officials. In a quickly scheduled media press conference Monday, Gov., Doug Burgum announced the health care system in the state is being over extended.

Bowman and Slope counties made the Nov. 3 election official – almost a week later. The canvassing board certified the vote tallies as official Monday, Nov. 9, in both counties. The voters in both counties said yes to incumbents at the county, state and national levels, while also saying no to ballot measures.

December

Velva may have ousted the Bowman County Bulldogs in the first round of the state playoffs, but the football team made a big impression among Region 4 coaches. The Bulldogs completed a 3-2 record in regional play with games against both Heart River and New Salem/Almont canceled because of COVID-19 protocols. The coaches recently released the regional all-star teams, with the Bulldogs putting seven players on the first squad. All-state players Caleb Duffield and Brady Senn were two of the three players to make the first team offense list. Sophomore Mace Stuber also made the first team offense list.

After being called the world’s hot spot when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Dakota has seen some of the of high numbers in daily positivity rate drop to 6.9 percent by Sunday. Just about a week earlier, it was over 10 percent (Nov. 28). That was a big drop from 16.5 percent daily positive rate ten days earlier.

Santa Days in Marmarth looked a little different Saturday as the community started celebrating its first COVID-19 Christmas. With little fanfare, Santa took up his location at the front of the historic Mystic Theater at 2 p.m., drawing visits from dozens of children and even a few who had left their childhood behind. He had visits from infants, toddlers and even a few teenagers.

When it comes to the season of giving, Bowman County is there and has always been there to meet the food needs of local residents. According to Michael Rice, the treasurer for the Bowman/Slope Community Cupboard, the people of Bowman County have responded even in the season of COVID-19. “You wouldn’t believe it. We are getting so many (donations). The people of Bowman and the surrounding areas are super, super generous... not only money but also food and people offering to help,” he explained Monday.

For some, it is the season for Christmas Cacti. And assorted gift bags. Small succulent plants are among the gifts being handed out by a group of local Secret Santa’s as part of the Giving Tree program for residents of Slope and Bowman counties. According to Edna Paulson, the local director of the Giving Tree program, the cactus and travel medical gift bags have been organized at the Bowman Senior Center.

For some, it may have been a sneak preview of a white Christmas when dense fog combined with sub-freezing temperatures in Bowman County and surrounding areas. The region was covered by dense fog for two days and at the same time freezing temperatures left the area coated with a near monochrome white appearance. According to the Bismarck office of the National Weather Service, much of the state was hit with what acted like a rare Hour frost. During the event, the frost got really thick and acted like snow would, the spokesman said.

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