The 2020 Census shows McKenzie County had the among the biggest population increases across the country, at 131 percent.

“Just in 2010, things were just starting to speculate with the oil industry and then we kind of went gangbuster and now we are finally getting the Census to reflect a little bit of that growth that we’ve seen over the past 10 years,” Dan Stenberg, Economic Development Coordinator for Mckenzie County, said.

One of the newer restaurants in Watford City is Sick Shooter. Co-owner Angie Pelton said within the last decade, she’s noticed the growth first-hand.

“When our population really went up from 2011-2014. Oh yeah, it was an hour wait every single night everywhere, I mean people from all over. You couldn’t get a drink you had to wait for a table,” Pelton said. “We were very fortunate that we had businesses in place prior to the boom let’s say so yes, things have been good to us.”

According to the Census, the population in McKenzie County increased from 6,360 people in 2010 to 14,704 people in 2020.

Stenberg said with the different grants they apply for they hope to create a career training program, especially for high school students to show them a variety of different jobs they can pursue locally.

“We’re the only Class A school that doesn’t have a college presence headquartered here and so we’re really trying to figure out what we can do to make sure that our folks are trained for the careers that we have already in our community instead of having to send people away. So that is our biggest priority right now,” Stenberg said.

Both Stenberg and Pelton said seeing the growth of Watford City over the last 10 years has been very exciting.

“I think our community has done a great job of giving a quality of life and that has been a big thing you know as families are looking for places to live, you’re looking for activities, you’re looking for a rough riders centers that we have here. You’re looking for great schools and those are all things that we have here,” Pelton said.

And you can see the growth through all the people at events like Ribfest, held Friday in Watford City.