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'Mr. Bubble' documentary premieres in Medora on Sunday

Medora is a hopping place this weekend and that's just the way Harold Schafer would have wanted it.

This weekend features the opening days of the 2013 Medora Musical, the town's first sanctioned rodeo in nearly four decades and, to wrap up the weekend, the Sunday premiere of a much-anticipated documentary about Schafer's life.

Schafer, who died in 2001, is considered by most to be the mastermind behind making the small western-themed town the most popular tourist destination in North Dakota.

The star of his legacy in Medora and beyond will shine bright Sunday with the premiere of the documentary "Mr. Bubble: The Harold Schafer Story," which was written and directed by North Dakota historian and author Clay Jenkinson through the Dakota Institute.

The film is scheduled to be shown at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Medora Old Town Theater, and is free and open to the public.

"It's going to be a spectacular film and I expect to cry more than once," Harold's 88-year-old widow, Sheila Schafer, said Friday. "One of the people who would probably have the most fun watching it would be Harold. It's going to be an exciting weekend. I think Clay Jenkinson just poured his heart and soul into it and I can't wait to see it."

Jenkinson said the film chronicles the colorful life of Harold Schafer, who came from humble beginnings in North Dakota and later became a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who founded the Gold Seal Company, the original maker of Mr. Bubble bubble bath soap.

"This is an incredible rags-to-riches story about a man who literally gave away everything that he had by the time of his death," Jenkinson said. "He gave away tens of millions of dollars to the point where he had nearly nothing left and you almost never hear of a story like that."

Calling him the "patriarch of an amazing family," Jenkinson said Harold Schafer was a unique visionary who saw something in Medora that almost nobody else saw, turning the city from a quintessential ghost town into the thriving tourist destination that it is today.

He was also the father of North Dakota's 30th governor, Ed Schafer, who served two terms in the office from 1992 to 2000.

Jenkinson noted that Harold Schafer -- along with his vision and financial backing to restore Medora -- also made many anonymous donations to people in need of various services and paid for "hundreds" of people's college educations.

"Harold was one of the bravest people there could be," Sheila Schafer said. "To think that he sold a very successful company with a lot of employees for the idea that maybe he'd rather be known for restoring Medora and the legends here. He put almost every cent of the sale of the company into Medora. He loved the Badlands, he loved Medora and I know he would be so happy to see this place today."

Sheila Schafer, who spends her winters in Bismarck and her summers in Medora, said she expects nearly three dozen family members from all over the country at the premiere, including the former governor.

"This is my 49th year of spending my summers in Medora in a wonderful log home that Harold built," Sheila Schafer said. "Harold might not be here physically, but he's here. He loved every facet of Medora from the wildlife to the music to the restaurants. He will always be here."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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