The annual North Dakota Chokecherry Festival returns for the 12th straight year.

The festival, set for Aug. 10 to 11, celebrates the chokecherry as the North Dakota state fruit. Prior to 2007, North Dakota did not have an official state fruit, but a persuasive letter writing assignment by Williston teacher Nancy Selby's sixth grade class led to legislation being introduced by Senators Stanley Lyson and Nick Hacker and signed into law by Governor John Hoeven on March 27, 2007. The first Chokecherry Festival was held on April 18, 2007.

The festival kicks off at Harmon Park at 4 p.m. Aug. 10 with a 1,000 burger feed followed by free ice cream sundaes with chokecherry syrup. Festival sponsors Nemont and American State Bank are providing the burgers and ice cream, and will serve until food runs out. The evening will feature musical entertainment from Miss Williston Renae Evenson and special guest Christina Winslow, followed by North Dakota sister-duo Tigirlily. The night wraps up with an outdoor showing of the animated film "Sing" at 10 p.m.

The festival ramps up again on Aug. 11 with the free pancake breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., served by members of the Lions Club and Community Builders. For those who like to start their day with some exercise, the Chokecherry 5k and 1 mile fun run starts at 8:30 a.m., with registration beginning at 8 a.m.

There will be plenty of activities for kids, as well, with Chokecherry Stroll, where kids are encouraged to dress up, decorate their bikes and wagons, and participate in a "parade" around the park. Participants will receive raffle tickets for prizes. The Kids Chokecherry Pit opens at 10 a.m., featuring face-painting, balloon twisting, a chokecherry pit-spitting contest, as well as many other family-friendly activities.

The Bear Hollow Wood Carvers will be holing live chainsaw carving demonstrations throughout the day Saturday, and their finished works will be on sale as part of a silent auction being held in the park, with proceeds going towards the festival. There will be live music throughout the day as well, with performances from local artists Brian Salveson, Frog Holler, Chloe Marie and Lexi Wyman.

Nationally-acclaimed dock dog jumping organization The Ultimate Air Dogs will be performing both days, with demonstrations from their team of dogs, as well as hosting competitions for the public and their furry friends. the Chokecherry Festival is a regional qualifying event for the Ultimate Air Dogs Championships in the fall.

For more information on the North Dakota Chokecherry Festival, contact the Williston Convention and Visitors Bureau at 701-774-9041 or visit the Chokecherry Festival Facebook page at www.facebook.com/chokecherryfestival.

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