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Published March 27, 2012, 11:24 AM

Mayor of ND tourist town withdraws hanging plan

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The mayor of a southwest North Dakota town who sought permission to stage mock hangings for tourists withdrew on Monday his application to erect gallows after he said controversy surrounding the plan painted the city in a negative light.

By: KRISTI EATON, Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The mayor of a southwest North Dakota town who sought permission to stage mock hangings for tourists withdrew on Monday his application to erect gallows after he said controversy surrounding the plan painted the city in a negative light.

Medora Mayor Doug Ellison submitted a request to the city's Planning and Zoning Commission last week to build gallows and stage mock executions as part of a 30-minute demonstration he envisioned would be an educational experience for tourists. Ellison had volunteered to play the part of the victim.

The commission, of which Ellison is a member, tabled the idea and planned to vote on it next month. But after realizing the hangings were a divisive issue, Ellison said, he withdrew his application.

"I am kind of saddened by it. I think it would have been a great opportunity to explore our Western heritage," he said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The majority of people understood his plan, he said, but a divisive minority was unhappy with it. Ellison, 49, said his original concept might not have been conveyed properly.

"It would have been a Western theatrical production. ... I would have played the bad guy, the outlaw, and people would have seen I was condemned for my own actions. The moral would have been that crime does not pay. I thought it would just be entertaining like a Western movie," he said.

But others didn't see it that way. People told him he was contributing to the moral decay of society, he said. One person said the idea was going to spark a wave of juvenile suicide.

"I don't want it to reflect badly on the town, so hopefully things will die down, and we'll just have to interpret our history another way," Ellison said.

Medora was founded in April 1883 by a French nobleman, the Marquis de Mores, who named the town for his bride. Its population swells to about 400 in the summer with seasonal workers.

The mayor said he has no other plans to try to draw tourists to Medora, which sees about 200,000 visitors each year. Instead, Ellison said he'll stick to researching and writing about history — not trying to stage it.

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