Birthday bash in town that survived white supremacist takeover attempt will serve as closure

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — Ten months after hundreds of people descended on Leith to protest a white supremacist's attempt to take over the town, the community is expecting a similar crowd — this time to help it celebrate its birthday in a non-hostile environment.

Leith officials have firmed up plans for the town's 105th anniversary next weekend. While there are no events specifically related to the end of the community's clash with supremacist Craig Cobb, the birthday bash will serve as a sort of closure, town spokesman Greg Bruce said.

"Cobb's gone. Have a nice day," he joked. "It's mainly a celebration of the 105th birthday, but it's also a celebration of a peaceful existence."

Cobb, 62, whose attempt to turn Leith into an all-white enclave ended when he was put on probation in April for terrorizing and menacing residents, now lives about 200 miles away in Sherwood — where he, too, says he is looking for a quieter existence.

Leith's celebration will include music, displays of Leith history, a parade, a street fair, a craft show and speakers.

U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven are sending representatives. Both offices said they often take part in such events and their participation is not linked to the town's recent struggles.

"It has nothing to do with Cobb," Hoeven spokesman Don Canton said. "That appears to be over."

Gov. Jack Dalrymple was invited but can't attend because of a scheduling conflict, spokesman Jeff Zent said.

Bruce said representatives of UnityND, an anti-hate group that helped organize the protest last fall, will not take part because they consider their work in Leith done.

UnityND Director Scott Garman said in a statement to The Associated Press that the group supports the town's celebration, and "wish them only the best as they work to get back to a normal life."

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