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Rural America Shrinking as Population Hits Low - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Rural America Shrinking as Population Hits Low

Small Towns Shrinking

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We've seen metro cities boom and small communities shrink to ghost towns. And now, the population of rural America is at its lowest ever.

The Population Reference Bureau shows only 16-percent of people in the US lives in rural areas, passing the previous low of 20-percent in 2000.

There's many states suffering big declines in rural population -- Mississippi, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas are some of them and here in North Dakota, Sheridan and Towner counties lose more than 20% of its people in the past decade.

Lidgerwood, North Dakota is also seeing the same trend.

"We've been through all the wind, the storms, the floods the fire. We looked like a war zone and we got through this. And we just feel this is something we deserve right now," says Jesse Frolek. 

At Lidgerwood's quasiquicentenniel, turning 125 calls for a big celebration. And from the John Wayne judges to the "ladies" Lidgerwood, what better way to have a birthday by inviting the whole town for the first ever Mr. Lidgerwood pageant.

But for Allan Weber who's lived and farmed his entire life in Lidgerwood, he hasn't seen a crowd like this in awhile.

"You go out in the country and there's no farm left," says Allan. "I live on a stretch two miles long and there used to be five farmers there."

Like many, Allan's kids have moved away to places like Minneapolis simply because they couldn't find a job after college. And for farmers and their sons, some stayed to keep the family fields going.

"I do see a downward trend," says Frolek. "I see the baby boomers go to their retirement years."

Farming is why many decided to stay in Lidgerwood but some say family and friends are what keeps them here.

"We would have fun with people 55, 65, 25 [years old]. I mean, we all had fun together. It's like they always welcomed us back," says Bo Frolek, a contestant in the pageant.

And it's a reunion like this that reminds them what made their small-town special in the first place.@

The rural share is expected to drop further as the US population grows. And here in North Dakota, many colleges are trying to draw in young adults by charging low tuition and fees.

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