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Which activity offends you more -- ultimate fighting or topless dancing?

GRAFTON, N.D. -- In February, the Grafton City Council outlawed strippers in bars. Recently, another adult entertainment option received the heave-ho here in the Walsh County seat.

GRAFTON, N.D. -- In February, the Grafton City Council outlawed strippers in bars. Recently, another adult entertainment option received the heave-ho here in the Walsh County seat.

Getting nixed was mixed martial arts fighting -- more commonly known by the trademarked name Ultimate Fighting -- planned for Grafton's summer festival that is appropriately called Summerfest.

Calling it mixed martial arts is an attempt to bring dignity to the competition, which is basically savage, brutal, no-holds-barred alley fighting. Marquis of Queensbury rules do not apply. Sometimes, the match is held in a steel cage, which gives more credence to those who regard it as human cockfighting.

Opinions on this "sport" differ, but one thing is clear -- it's immensely popular, especially with young adult males. It's all over cable television, and events in the region have drawn big crowds.

Dan Kohler, president of the Chamber of Commerce that sponsors Summerfest, said the initial approval involved the event's potential to attract "a big crowd or a different crowd." A year ago, Summerfest invested a lot of money in a country band, and "nobody showed up."


But upon further review, "We decided it wasn't an appropriate event to be sponsored by the Chamber, which supports family entertainment during Summerfest."

Although Kohler wouldn't comment on it, the reversal came after public pressure. The driving force behind the heat was Gary Moe, a Grafton resident who has an almost-daily online newsletter that is called the Shivercity Gazette or Skeeterville Gazette, depending upon the time of year.

Moe railed against the event from his Internet pulpit. And he has a big congregation, one that includes me. He wouldn't say how many e-mail newsletter recipients he has, but he did say he has 149 groups. My group has 51 e-mail addresses. Doing the math, that means potentially 7,500 in-boxes.

He said more than 50 responses agreed with him and "not one told me to mind my own damn business."

"In my mind, it as brutal of a sport as I've ever witnessed," he said. "I wrassled in college, did a little boxing and have even been in a brawl or two, but this lets people destroy each other."

Moe said he fears that watching MMA will result in other violence. Just as car race fans drive fast when leaving the parking lot, so too will MMA fans feel the urge to replicate the mayhem after the event.

Residual damage also was the argument made by Mayor Todd Burianek when he led the successful charge to ban topless dancing where alcohol is served. He said his problem isn't the stripping as much as the "negative collateral effects" that come with it, such as "immoral violations" and drug trafficking.

"I'm not a prude," Burianek said. "It just feels creepy in my town."


The two cancellations here -- one through government and the other through the court of public opinion -- beg a question.

Here's the question: What do you find worse, strippers or mixed martial arts?

Please cast your vote by referencing the italicized print at the end of this column.

I already have Moe's vote. "If you want to stop a girl from hugging a pole inside a bar that has dark windows and only legal adults inside it, I can't imagine inviting this fighting to town."

Agree or disagree? Cast your vote. I'll print the results.

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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