And so, slowly, they are trying to accept that their most famous son will probably soon lose his chief claim to fame.
They are trying to understand that, as far as the rest of the nation is concerned, Roger Maris will soon be just another George Foster.
They have grudgingly acknowledged that he did not make the Hall of Fame. They endured the years when his home run record was under a mythical asterisk.
They could even understand that, when he broke the record at Yankee Stadium on the final day of the 1961 season, his chase was so unpopular that only about 23,000 showed up to watch.
So, yes, they will handle this.
"Little town like he was from, to accomplish what he did, that will never change," Wood says.
The directors of the golf tournament have already raised the question of whether the event--which has raised more than $500,000 for local charities, including the MeritCare Roger Maris Cancer Center--should continue if the record is broken.
"There was no debate, we all agreed it should continue," Kelly says. "This is about more than a record."
The tournament folks have vowed that even the logo that adorns their shirts--"61 in '61"--will not change.
"Heck, he still hit the home runs, didn't he?" Blanchard says.
The local minor league team, the independent Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, issued a preemptive strike this winter by retiring the number "8" that Maris wore during his first pro season with the local Class-C Twins.
Club officials were alerted by McGwire's 58 homers last year and wanted to act before the record was gone. They didn't know he wore "8" until an intern discovered an old picture in library files. Then they were astonished who had been wearing it since.
"Last year, uh, I wore it," says Josh Buchholz, team publicity director who served as bullpen catcher.
Then there is that unusual museum, Maris' real lasting legacy here, filled with Gold Gloves, slugging crowns, uniforms and a constantly running videotape that curator Jim McLaughlin replaces every four months.
How it came to be located in a shopping mall is a Roger Maris kind of story.
When a couple of guys from the local American Legion convinced him that folks here wanted to see his memorabilia, he agreed to display it under two conditions: It had to accessible to a large number of people. It had to be free.
"We looked around and said, well, the only place that would satisfy those requirements in this town would be the mall," McLaughlin says. "So we said, 'Why not?' "
How did they get all the things from Florida? McLaughlin and a friend drove down a U-Haul to pick them up, of course, opening the museum in June of 1984.
Why the museum will continue to operate--no matter how many home runs McGwire and Sosa hit this year--is another Roger Maris kind of story.
When it opened, Maris signed hundreds of postcards to distribute to the first visitors. But then he signed an extra 100 and told the curator to tuck them away for later.
"He said that after he was dead, he wanted me to give these postcards to people who understand who he really was," McLaughlin recalls.
So McLaughlin occasionally patrols the hallway in front of the museum, looking for people who understand, waiting to bestow a souvenir that is now worth several hundred dollars.
There was the couple from New York who flew here for their honeymoon. McLaughlin drove home and brought them back a postcard.
There was the elderly man from back East who had been begging his son to bring him here. When McLaughlin returned with the postcard, the elderly man cried.
"They can take away Roger Maris' record, but they won't take away what he meant to this town," McLaughlin says, sighing. "Anyway, they haven't broken it yet, have they? I watch every night on ESPN, and they haven't broken it yet."