Members of the nonprofit organization, the Grue Church Project, are hosting The Waddington Brothers in a performance set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, at the church, 7 miles northeast of Buxton, N.D.

The event is a fundraiser to support efforts of the group to preserve and restore the Gothic Norwegian-American church building as a cultural center.

Tickets, $20 each, may be purchased online at www.gruechurchproject.com ; on Facebook, see Grue Church Project; or at the door. Children 12 years of age and younger will be admitted free. Organizers request that no Halloween costumes be worn.

A chili supper, with hot chocolate and pie, will be served, for a free will offering, starting at 4:30 p.m. Lots of activities for kids are planned, including a pumpkin decorating contest, as well as cornhole and checkerboard games outdoors, said Bobbi Hepper Olson, the Buxton-based architect who’s leading the Grue Church Project.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

The Waddington Brothers, four musicians from southwestern North Dakota, are known for their versatile acoustic sound, playing bluegrass and country western music. The band has spent years touring and performing throughout the United States and Canada.

“Music has been in these men’s blood since early childhood,” according to the band’s website. Years ago, as adolescents, they played in the Frozen Fingers Bluegrass Festival in Minot.

Since then, they have performed at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. They have been featured guests on “Dakota Air, the Radio Show” on Prairie Public Radio and at North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s inaugural ball in 2013.

Restoring the church

Saturday’s event, funded by a grant from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, marks one of the first steps to raise funds to preserve and restore the 130-year-old church building and transform it into a rural cultural center “to celebrate heritage, cultural and sacred space in Traill County, North Dakota,” according to the Grue Church Project website.

The Grue Lutheran Church closed in the summer of 2020 due to dwindling membership, but is being revived by former church members and others whose families of those buried in the cemetery.

In September 2020, the Grue Church Project transferred the buildings and grounds to the Buxton in Bloom nonprofit organization.

“The church is in really good shape. It’s in a nice setting,” Hepper Olson said. “We’re hoping to give it new life.”

Her group would like to see the church used as a venue for musical and other events sponsored by arts organizations, as well as workshops and weddings, she said. By partnering with other organizations, they envision the church as a setting for rural art and music programs, museums, historical groups, private services, lectures, panels, reunions, receptions and picnics.

“We still want to keep that spiritual and church-like image, too,” she said.

Hepper Olson and others involved in the Grue Church Project “have been writing grants and working on fixing up the church so it won’t get demolished,” she said. “We’re trying to be creative” in efforts to revitalize the building.

Members of the Grue Church Project hosted their first cultural event in July. At that event, which drew an audience of about 80, organizers served lemonade and lefse and presented a program that featured a young fiddler, who played a Hardanger fiddle, considered a national instrument of Norway, and a speaker who gave a presentation on old churches.

Restoring the original Grue Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church is especially meaningful to Hepper Olson. She was married and her children were baptized there. Her husband Kyle Olson’s ancestors were among the church’s first 63 charter members.

Her relatives were among the members -- many of them Norwegian immigrants -- who built the church that was completed in 1891.

Mancur Olson, a renowned political economist, is buried in the Grue cemetery, Hepper Olson said. “We are working on getting a historic marker for his grave.”

Her family lives on the farmstead where he grew up, she said.

For more information about the church and cemetery, visit www.gruechurchproject.com .