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Mr. Medora: Bill Sorensen reflects on time well-spent

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Former Bismarck mayor Bill Sorensen is stepping down from co-hosting the Medora Musical but will still continue with other Medora performances. Jack Dura / Bismarck Tribune

“As a kid, I was kind of shy and bashful in a lot of ways, but I had an interest in magic,” former mayor, state legislator, city commissioner, business owner, sports agent, Medora Musical co-host, entertainer and magician, Bill Sorensen, said as he tried to remember the genesis of his career as an entertainer.

“As I kept practicing my magic craft and juggling, people started asking me to do little shows and then one summer, I worked hard to make money for college and then that fall, someone at a shopping center offered me some pretty good dollars to do something there. I thought, ‘Golly, if I can make that kind of money doing that…’” he jovially admitted.

By the very next summer, his last in college studying pre-law at Concordia University, Sorenesen did shows at fairs and shopping centers throughout the state, honing his skills and making a name for himself as a performer in the realm of conjoury and comedy.

“Not long after that, I did my first show in Medora,” he told the Press as he caught his breath between boxes of stage decorations and lighting equipment. “It’s never been my full-time job, until now that I’m in retirement.”

Sorensen moved around the country for a few years after graduation before eventually returning home and raising his family in Bismarck.

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But even with successful ventures into technology-centered businesses, and soon politics, his heart remained on stage. Even throughout multiple lucrative careers, Sorensen could be found performing for the people of North Dakota.

“I was mayor of Bismarck at the time and had other businesses,” he mentioned passingly of his three-term tenure in that office. “So, we just came out here on the weekend, and my friends thought It was crazy to do shows all weekend long. But to me it was relaxation and it was fun. I’ve always loved it.”

After spending years doing magic and comedy at variety shows in Medora, the history of which has fascinated the renaissance man since youth, Sorensen befriended Rod Tjaden, the head of the Medora Foundation at the time, and the pair set upon renovating the Old Town Hall Theatre.

“I’ve had a couple thousand shows here, before I started doing the musical,” Sorensen said. “My first time here was 1976, the bicentennial year, in this building.”

Although 2019 was his final season as co-host of the Medora Musical, Sorensen is still adamant about performing. He can still be found at the Medora Gospel Brunch, the Magical Medora Christmas Show and various magic and comedy showcases throughout town.

“It’s full circle,” he said with a smile. “I’m about to go full circle and go back upstairs and do four to five days a week at the town hall. So that’ll be my retirement cake.”

When asked why he does it, why he works so hard at bringing a smile to every face for which he performs, Sorensen, Mr. Medora, took a moment to think.

“There is a real joy in making people laugh and having them forget, for awhile, whatever else is going on in their lives,” he said after reflecting upon the breadth of his career. “That’s a real privilege — a real honor.”

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