Grand Forks’ 2021 festival is dedicated to the high school classes of 1997, classes whose proms were canceled after the ruinous flood that year that caused widespread damage on both sides of the river. Many residents were displaced for a period of time until the waters receded and people could return to their homes, oftentimes to flooded basements and destroyed home appliances.
Soul Asylum played a concert for graduating students later that year at Grand Forks Air Force Base, where they recorded the album “After the Flood: Live from the Grand Forks Prom, June 28, 1997.” The group later released the album in 2004.
Some attendees on Friday, Sept. 10, were members of the class of 1997, attended that prom, and looked forward to seeing the band once again.
“Back then they were my favorite band, so to have your favorite band and play your prom, that was pretty cool,” said Doug Lee, who now resides in St. Paul, Minn., and is a graduate of Grand Forks Central’s class of 1997.
Lee said graduating seniors at first didn’t really think about the prom, considering the flood conditions that year -- students were busy helping fill and place sandbags. But when he had the opportunity to go, he gathered a large group of friends and family members, including his two older brothers, Josh and Jason, from Central’s class of 1995.
The trio rounded up a group of about 30 friends and family members and went to the concert, a pleasant surprise for those who thought they’d never get to go to their prom.
“Nobody went with their boyfriends or girlfriends, everybody took another person,” said Jason Lee. “We had friends come up from South Dakota and everything, and we all had dates to go to the ‘97 prom. … Thanks to the class of ‘97!”
The Lees were on hand to see the local band Cheron, which took to the Sorlie Stage at 4:45 on Friday. Josh Lee said they had an acquaintance in the band, and were on hand to show some support, with maybe a little teasing afterward. They said they would head home for a while and return for Soul Asylum at 9:30 p.m.
In addition to being able to see a blast from his past, Josh Lee said “good food and good music” brought him to the festival.
Dustin Shower, also a 1997 graduate from Central High School, was at the festival on Friday. It was his second day attending, and he said he enjoyed seeing G. Love & Special Sauce on Thursday night. Unlike the Lees, Shower said he never attended the Soul Asylum concert in 1997. Friday night was his chance to make up for that.
“I was the type (that said) ‘I'm not going to go to prom, I'm not going to go to prom,’ and I totally skipped it,” Shower said. “It's been a big regret, so I'm looking at this as my redemption night to go to my prom finally.”
While Soul Asylum was on the minds of many, other attractions like the zip line and bands playing the Strive Life Stage also drew crowds. Entropy took to that stage at 5:45 p.m. and played a mix of original songs and popular hits from bands like Stone Temple Pilots and The Pixies.
Funk rock group, The Forefeathers, dazzled on the secondary stage, as the heat of the day dwindled with the setting sun. The band drew a sizable crowd, some standing, some dancing, others sitting in camp chairs, and the nearby picnic tables were nearly full of people enjoying fare from the many food trucks at the event.
Being able to support local food trucks brought Michele Thiel, from East Grand Forks, out to the event. Thiel said she had plenty of local entertainment options, but wanted to be outside, and in a place where she could spread out.
“I love the fact that you can do outdoor events and be able to be socially distanced,” she said. “I didn't go to Foreigner, but I'll come here.”
Games also proved to be a popular attraction, perhaps most for those too young to get lost in the music. Ping pong tables were busy Friday night, as were fenced in areas for small children to kick rubber balls around. Giant Jenga games were available, and the sound of clattering wooden pieces could be heard between lulls in the music.
But music was the reason that drew many attendees, and when Soul Asylum made its first appearance in Grand Forks since 1997, the crowd reoriented itself in front of the Sorlie Stage. The band launched into its set, including hits like “Somebody to Shove” and “Misery.”
The festival continues on Saturday with headliner Trampled by Turtles, and on Sunday concert-goers can see I am They, and Koo Koo Kanga Roo, a family-friendly group that gets the audience involved in dance routines.