Stronger than the average bear

Hidden back in the courtyard of the Flickertail Gardens on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds is a free stage where fair-goes during the North Dakota State Fair can be amazed and entertained by a young woman named Mama Lou, the only performing strongwoman in the Northern Hemisphere.

For the rest of the North Dakota State Fair’s run, July 25 to 27, fair attendees can watch Mama Lou perform feats of strength at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Her show features shows of strength, comedic entertainment and an uplifting message. Mama Lou also includes audience participation in her shows and has performed all over the world.

Mama Lou opened the show by playing the ukulele and singing a catchy folk song that she wrote as an introduction of herself. Singing was an addition which she said was inspired by the comedian Gallagher, who is probably best known for smashing watermelons on stage during his act, and who she met last year at the Ohio State Fair.

Along the way, Mama Lou said she learned a variety of strong arm acts and made sure to prove to the audience that she was not cheating on any of the feats of strength. “I have to prove that I’m genuinely and actually strong and not full of crap,” she said, and then kicked off her show with her first stunt.

As Mama Lou held up an unopened deck of playing cards and asking for a volunteer from the audience to kindly remove the cellophane wrapping, she said she started with this trick seven years ago when she was “just a baby strongwoman,” and noted that she would leave the instructions and two joker cards in the deck. “Remember that you can never fail anything if you never give up,” Mama Lou said for inspiration before proceeding with her first stunt, ripping the entire deck of cards in half after three tries.

Next on Mama Lou’s repertoire were one-arm push-ups, of which she did five, done with her left side even though she’s right-handed, she said. Then, with some help from two burly-looking men from the audience who held up the bar, Mama Lou did three one-arm pull-ups, to the astonishment of the audience.

However, not backing away from a challenge or letting the two volunteers off the hook that easy, Mama Lou challenged them to a round of human tug-of-war. She stood in between the two men with her hands clasped together while each man took hold of her arms and tried their best to pull her arms apart. Mama Lou offered to pay both of the volunteers $20 if they succeeded in pulling one of her arms away from the other, otherwise they would each have to kneel, clasp their hands over their heart and say dreamily, “She’s so strong” to Mama Lou. Additionally, Mama Lou warned both men to keep their pulling steady and continuous because she had her shoulders ripped out of their sockets by two guys in Australia the year before.

“No matter what happens, don’t be a jerk,” Mama Lou said before the two men tried to win her challenge of human tug-of-war. Ten seconds later, the length of the game, the men were not able to pull her arms apart and had to tell Mama Lou how strong she is.

“Even though I’m incredibly strong,” Mama Lou said as an introduction for her next stunt, “I’m still a lady.” She said she enjoys cooking and offered to show the audience how she as a strong woman makes breakfast. Mama Lou’s next stunts included crushing an apple between her arm and bicep and lifting two full bags of potatoes with her tongue. In order to lift the potatoes, Mama Lou hung them with an S-clip on both sides of the thin piece of rope and lifted the potatoes by placing her tongue in the middle of the rope. She also managed to bend a skillet with her hands.

Toward the end of the show, Mama Lou sang another catchy tune, minus the ukulele that time, about people not wanting to come to her house because she ends up smashing everything since she’s so strong. After the song, she said, “I have done all sorts of performing, but I’ve always been terrified to play a musical instrument in front of people.” Her show is a show about empowerment, Mama Lou added, and thinks people should do one thing that terrifies them everyday.

For the finale, after a comedic set-up with another audience participant about him being a nemesis of Mama Lou, and set to a loud ’80s rock song by Bonnie Tyler for inspiration, she ripped a 2013 SRT Minot phone book in half. It took her six months to learn how to rip a phone book, she added.

“Do amazing and impossible things,” Mama Lou instructed at the end of the show. “Go be awesome!”