A Landing a Day

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Zap, North Dakota

Posted by graywacke on March 6, 2015

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-three-or-four days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2161; A Landing A Day blog post number 589.

Dan:  Today’s landing marks the 49th straight western / midwestern landing (and an OSer at that). . . ND; 62/50; 2/10; 27; 151.0.

Here we go again.   49 landings in a row that haven’t touched the east!  Just like my last bunch of posts, I’ll do the statistics:  Each landing, I have a 0.82 chance of a western / midwestern landing.  Raise that number to the 49th power (and then take the inverse) and I get one chance in 16,716 that I would not land in the east for 49 straight landings!!!   Phew. . .

Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

My local landing map shows a string of towns (including Zap) along Route 200:

 landing 2

I have a pretty straightforward watershed analysis.  I landed in the watershed of Malnourie Ck which flows into Lake Sakakawea:

 landing 3a

Zooming back a little, you can see that Lake Sakakawea is the dammed up Missouri R (393rd hit); on to the MM (849th hit):

 landing 3b

Here’s my Google Earth (GE) trip:


And yes! There’s Street View coverage for the little local road just south of my landing:

 ge sv map

And here’s the Street View shot of my landing:

 ge sv landing

I checked out the four little towns you can see on my landing map.  Of course, I was rooting for Zap to have the hook, and guess what?  It not only has a hook, it has (in my opinion) a great hook!  (And, the other three towns were hookless).

Before diving into the hook, here’s what the town website has to say about the unusual name:

Zap was settled in 1913 along a Northern Pacific railroad spur line.  A railroad company official (Mr. Pettibone) in charge of naming the new villages, named our community Zap.  He chose Zap because there was a coal mine at the edge of town and Mr. Pettibone knew a coal-mining town in Scotland called Zapp.  He chose to Americanize the name and spelled it with only one “p”.   There are other myths about the naming of our town, but this is most likely the true story.

The ALAD truth patrol report:  A Google search of Zapp Scotland turns up absolutely nothing (except for references to Zap ND).  So, I really doubt that particular naming scenario.  Anyway, moving right along to the hook.  From Wiki:

Zap is probably most widely known for the Zip to Zap (also referred to as the Zap-In) which happened on May 10, 1969. It all started with an article written by Kevin Carvell that appeared in the ND State University Spectrum newspaper.  The article said in part:

Located in the valley of the scenic Knife River, Zap (Zip 58580) has thrown open its arms to students. The beautiful burg’s 250 residents welcome us to their shores. Shall we say no to this truly fine gesture of western hospitality? Of course not. On May 10, we and students like us from all over the Midwest will flock to Zap, the Lauderdale of the North.

As a result of this and other articles (which were also picked up by the Associated Press), between 2000 and 3000 people descended upon the small town of Zap for what was intended to be a fun spring break weekend.  Carloads and busloads and even chartered planes of people arrived from all parts of the country.

The residents of Zap were quick to embrace the idea. They saw an opportunity for publicity and to make some money. The two local bars stockpiled a supply of beer and local diners began marketing “Zapburgers” in anticipation of the event. “We thought, well, we’ll put ourselves on the map here,” remembered Norman Fuchs, the mayor of Zap in 1969. The publicity surrounding the event became quite tremendous.

The organizers of the Zip to Zap and the government and residents of Zap were caught up in a whirlwind of publicity and seemingly gave little regard to the organization of the event or how to deal with thousands of college-aged students who were out for a good time.

The Spectrum published a map of Zap and the surrounding area and published an article detailing the bars and cafes of Zap and the scenic beauty of the Knife River Valley. The article concluded with what was to become a prophetic statement, “In addition to these events, a full program of orgies, brawls, freakouts, and arrests is being planned. Do you dare miss it?”

Students began arriving in Zap on Friday, May 9, 1969. They quickly filled the town’s two taverns. The demand for beer was such that the tavern owners decided to double the price. This action upset the students, but in the long run it did not matter since all the beer was rapidly consumed.

Drunken students took to the streets of the small town and caused great concern among the locals, who quickly began to fear for their safety. The temperatures fell below freezing and the drunken college students started a bonfire in the center of town, using wood that was left over from a recent demolition project as well as furniture from one of the bars.

The townspeople, led by Mayor Fuchs, asked the students to leave: most complied but some did not. What had started out as a spring break get-together quickly turned into the only riot in North Dakota’s history. Local security forces were overwhelmed and the cafe and one of the bars were completely destroyed.

Governor William Guy called in 500 troops from the North Dakota National Guard to quell the riot. Over 1,000 partiers were still in Zap when the guard arrived on the scene at 6:30 am, although just 200 of them were still awake. The guardsmen with fixed bayonets roused the hungover students. There was little resistance to the dispersal.

This all took place in front of national media outlets that had gathered at Zap to document the occasion.

Wow.  I was a 19-year old college student when the Zip to Zap happened.  I have never heard of it, and I must not have been tuned in to the nightly news.

Of course, you must check out this “Zap Revisited” video (by Christopher Breitling):


Here are some pictures of the action.  First this from Minnesota State U archives:

 1969-Zip-to-Zap mn state u

And this, from Kizaz.com:

 zip-to-zap kizaz

And this, from Just Walt’s blogspot:

 zip2zap1 from just-walt's blog

And then there’s this shot from the Bismark Tribune:


Boy does that guy in the trashcan look like a Fraternity Brother of mine (although I forget his name).  He’s a year older, so I guess it’s possible.

There were a couple of newspaper articles about the 40th anniversary reunion.  From the Bismark Tribune, here are some excerpts from an article by Lauren Donovan:

Don Homuth hopes a few original National Guardsmen show up at the Zip to Zap party Saturday.

If they do, he envisions a “geezers guarding geezers” reunion. This time, they can drink a cold beer together, if geezers still drink beer.

Homuth, 64, is coming from Oregon for the 40th anniversary of the spring break party that put Zap on the map forever.

There’s no question, “We really are becoming old farts,” Homuth said.

He’s cheerleading a Zip to Zap reunion of others, like him, from North Dakota State University’s student newspaper and government. As students, they were all involved in promoting the 1969 Zap-in “happening” that ended with National Guard being called in before dawn on the second day of the event.

David Anderson (interviewed for this story), 65, remembered wearing his Guard uniform and carrying his rifle, no ammunition, with an affixed bayonet when he jumped off the camouflage truck at dawn the morning after.

His unit had been called in and spent the night at the Mott armory, drilling riot control formations until long past midnight when the order from Gov. William Guy came down to deploy to Zap.

What sticks in Anderson’s mind is how well the crowd-control formations – a V-shape with bayonets at point – worked to break up the partiers, though he remembers them as being pretty mellow and partied out by the time the Guard pulled in.

“It was an unorganized group against an organized group. There was not an angry confrontation. I never heard of any hard feelings or bitterness,” he said.

Another 40th reunion article was written by Chuck Haga for the Minnesota Post.  Some excerpts:

Plans for the “Zip to Zap” grew as stories appeared in college newspapers in Fargo and across the state. The Associated Press took note of the impending youth invasion and spread word around the country.

It ended in a drunken tumult. The local bar owner may have contributed to the rowdiness by raising the price of beer when a band he had hired started to play. Students trashed the place, tossing a jukebox through a window, and tore apart an abandoned building to fuel a bonfire on Main Street. According to the bar owner, they also threw much of his furniture onto the fire, including the jukebox.

Chuck Stroup plans to be back. A banker now in western North Dakota, he was NDSU student president in 1969 and is widely seen as father of the Zip to Zap.

“I was sitting in my office one evening and I was thinking about the poor suckers like me who weren’t going to Fort Lauderdale” for spring break in 1969, he told the Dickinson (N.D.) Press recently. “And I thought, well geez, NDSU knows how to party. Why don’t we have a party over a weekend out of town and invite all the other college kids.”

Kevin Carvell who wrote for the Spectrum, NDSU’s student newspaper, made sure everybody knew about Zap and how to get there, part of the famous (to us Nodaks) Rice Krispies Tour of three towns in western North Dakota. (Say it out loud: Zap, Gackle and Mott.)

Hold on a minute!!  Is that great or what??  The “Zap, Gackle & Mott” Rice Krispies tour!

“I got kind of carried away with the story,” Carvell, recently retired as an aide to U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., says now.

He said he was “mortified” when the guard was called out, and he fled to his hometown of Mott “and hid in the basement of my parents’ house for a couple days.”

The Dickinson ND paper caught up with a former guard soldier, Rick Price, who said the troops formed up outside Zap after midnight but didn’t march in until morning. They were nervous, he said. This was, after all, a time of massive student protests against the war in Vietnam.

Not to worry.  By morning, most of the students had passed out or fallen asleep.

Just remember:  the Zap Zip is 58580.

OK, how about some pretty pictures of Lake Sakakawea?  First, check out the little island across the lake:

 ge  indian hills island

Here’s a GE Panoramio shot of the island (Indian Hills Island) by iuric89:

 pano iurcic89 indian hills

Off to the west a few miles is McKenzie Bay.  Here’s a Pano shot by ManlyOne:

 mackenzie bay by manlyone

I’m always a sucker for a shot of sunflowers.  So I’ll close with this Pano shot by Whelm taken about 15 miles east of my landing:

 pano Whelm


That’ll do it.




© 2015 A Landing A Day





4 Responses to “Zap, North Dakota”

  1. Cheryl said

    Greg, Todays post on Zap is great fun. How come it was not better known? Or maybe I was too busy getting ready for Woodstock to notice.
    I am the last one to consult on the parameters of the program that selects the random latitude and longitude, but wouldn’t it be worth checking it out? It seems really odd to have landed 49 times in the west without a single eastern landing??

  2. Jordan said

    Great post! One of the few that I really really enjoy that has nothing to do with geology/hydrology or statistics. Probably because I relate to these morons.

  3. Todd Martinson said

    Well done. I live in North Dakota and have read much on Zip to Zap. Your research dug up information I have never found. It was very entertaining. Thank you.

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