Festival goers trickled through the gates, in ones and twos and larger groups on Thursday, Sept. 9, the first day of the four-day Greenway Takeover Festival, held for the first time since 2019.

Shortly before 7 p.m. the crowd numbered in the hundreds, and were fairly spread out through the 200,000 square foot area, located right along the Red River in downtown Grand Forks. People spread out between food trucks, picnic tables and music stages, and played games like ping-pong and soccer ball/billiards with friends and family members, on the pleasantly cool and clear Thursday evening.

Ellen Treanor plays a game of ping-pong at the Greenway Takeover Festival Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Ellen Treanor plays a game of ping-pong at the Greenway Takeover Festival Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Attending from Fargo were Larissa and Jeremy Driscoll, their first time at the festival. They were in town to visit Jeremy’s parents, but also to see Thursday’s headlining musical act, which for them was free, as they entered the grounds before 6 p.m. Those entering after that time need to pay an entrance fee.

“We just ate and now we’re drinking our beers,” said Larissa Driscoll. “We're looking forward to G Love & Special Sauce."

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Each year the festival features a special attraction, and this year it’s a 220-foot zipline. Morgan Socwell, of Grand Forks, swooshed down the line while her mother looked on.

“It was good,” she said, then asked her mother, “Do I get to go a second time?”

Morgan Socwell takes a ride on the Zipline Thursday at the opening day of the Greenway Takeover Festival. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Morgan Socwell takes a ride on the Zipline Thursday at the opening day of the Greenway Takeover Festival. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

G Love took to the Sorlie Stage -- the main stage -- at 8:30 p.m., but warming up that stage for them at 6:15 p.m. was Bismarck trio Moon Cats, who called on the audience to join in singing.

“You got it Grand Forks!” shouted a singer from the opening band, which featured instruments ranging from a banjo and upright bass, to spoons and a washboard.

About an hour earlier, Tricia Halvorson Lunski, HB Sound and Light marketing and festival manager, said she was expecting the four-day event to be well-attended. Shortly before 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9, Halvorson Lunski walked the festival grounds to give things a once over. ATMs? Check. Lights? Mostly done. Event staff worked to put the finishing touches on the festival.

Since Tuesday, crews from HB Sound and Light had been putting in 18-hour days to set up the grounds. They began stringing overhead lights the week prior. Halvorson Lunski said she was glad to bring the festival back after COVID, and the calamitous year it brought about, caused it to be canceled in 2020.

Hundreds of fans listen to Thursday's headliners, "G. Love & Special Sauce," perform at the fourth annual Greenway Takeover Festival in downtown Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Hundreds of fans listen to Thursday's headliners, "G. Love & Special Sauce," perform at the fourth annual Greenway Takeover Festival in downtown Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“I'm feeling pretty good,” Halvorson Lunski said. “COVID is still a little out there obviously (but) even if we lose 10% (of attendance) due to COVID, that's a pretty big number.”

Halvorson Lunski said she was also looking forward to G Love & Special Sauce, and said she thought her company’s audio equipment would do them justice.

“I think they’re going to sound phenomenal,” she said.

Backed by multi-colored lights, G Love & Special Sauce took the stage to attendance that still numbered in the hundreds. At one point G Love handed the evening’s set list to a concert goer. Halvorson Lunski said the first day of the festival is always a “soft opening,” and that attendance would certainly improve.

5-year-old Lily Sonvannasacd and her sister, Chloe Sonvannasacd, 7, take a break during Thursday's opening day of the Greenway Festival in downtown Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
5-year-old Lily Sonvannasacd and her sister, Chloe Sonvannasacd, 7, take a break during Thursday's opening day of the Greenway Festival in downtown Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

And on Thursday attendees could still look forward to Friday’s headliner Soul Asylum. This year’s Greenway Takeover Festival is dedicated to Grand Forks high school classes of 1997, whose proms were canceled after the flood that year wreaked havoc on the region. Soul Asylum played at an event for those students at Grand Forks Air Force Base later that year.

Saturday’s headliner is Trampled By Turtles, and on Sunday, people can see I Am They and Koo Koo Kanga Roo, as well as numerous musical acts on the Strive Life stage and musical and arts and entertainment events on the Myra Foundation Stage.

(From left) Evan Chambers, Tiffaney Chambers, Carl Jones and Brynlee Chambers check out the food at the Greenway Festival, Thursday, September 9, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
(From left) Evan Chambers, Tiffaney Chambers, Carl Jones and Brynlee Chambers check out the food at the Greenway Festival, Thursday, September 9, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald