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The 'Circus' is coming to town

Britney Spears, as famous for generating tabloid headlines as she is as a worldwide pop music icon, will be in Grand Forks on Sept. 12 as part of her new "Circus" concert tour, an event some believe could be as big as the 2002 Cher concert in the...

Spears coming to GF
Madame Tussauds studio team members put the final touches to a wax figure of U.S singer Britney Spears, centre, London, Tuesday, June 02, 2009, in preparation of her arrival for the UK leg of her Circus world tour. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

Britney Spears, as famous for generating tabloid headlines as she is as a worldwide pop music icon, will be in Grand Forks on Sept. 12 as part of her new "Circus" concert tour, an event some believe could be as big as the 2002 Cher concert in the Alerus Center.

"This is so big, it has its own zip code," an elated Steve Hyman, executive director of the Alerus Center, said of Wednesday's announcement.

Spears currently is in the middle of an eight-night run of her "Circus" tour in London, to be followed by arena shows in other European cities. She'll launch the second leg of her tour Aug. 20 in Hamilton, Ont., followed by shows on the East Coast and in the South.

She'll be in Detroit on Sept. 8, Chicago on Sept. 9, Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 11, the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Sept. 12 and Tulsa, Okla., on Sept. 15. That's it for shows in the Midwest. She will not be appearing in Fargo or Winnipeg, chief among Grand Forks' competitors for big shows.

Spears' performances have sold out at other venues, Hyman said, and it's important that she do well in Grand Forks. The success of her Alerus gig, where about 20,000 seats will be available, could make or break the future of big-name concerts in the Alerus, Hyman said.

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"If we don't hit a home run with this, stick a fork in it, we're done," he said.

It's the reality of Britney Spears that news of her coming to Grand Forks was met with elation and excitement from some and "ho-hum" from others. With two failed marriages, her reputation for panty-less partying, then a shaved head and very public meltdown that resulted in the court's granting her father conservatorship over her affairs -- Spears has earned her rep as a pop-tart and become a punch line in some circles.

"I don't know a lot of people who are diehard Britney fans," said Ben Klipfel, director of Greater Grand Forks Community Theater and known for his marketing skills. "That being said, it's a fresher concert in the sense that while she's still in kind of comeback moment in her career. It's not a '70s or '80s type of group, which is what we typically seem to get here."

Julie Rygg, executive director.of the Greater Grand Forks Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the Britney Spears concert had the potential to rival the 2002 Alerus concert starring Cher, an event that drew more than 20,000 fans and has been the biggest concert at the Alerus so far.

"I think whether you're a fan of hers or not, you can appreciate the impact she's going to have on the community," Rygg said. "There's just no arguing that."

Britney fan Kelsey Germundson, a junior at Red River High School, said the pop star has lots of fans of both sexes among Grand Forks' teens and young adults.

"I remember a lot of people wanted to go see her in April in Minneapolis, but we were still in school," Germundson said during a break from Summer Performing Arts Wednesday. "I think it's really cool that she's coming back, even though she's gone through a lot o hard stuff in her life. I think she's handling it really well."

Among Grand Forks' organizations, businesses and city government, said Mayor Mike Brown, all the players would have to work together to make the Spears concert Saturday, Sept. 12, a big weekend for Grand Forks.

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"We'll be rolling out the red carpet to the whole region so everyone can see Britney Spears," he said. "This is so exciting. It's fun to see the Alerus Center achieving its full potential and thanks to the staff at the Alerus Center."

Many in the community hope a successful, well-run Spears concert could bring more big entertainment events to Grand Forks. Hyman said he'd already had inquiries from another big-name entertainer about dates at the Alerus in 2010.

"This is an opportunity for Grand Forks to prove it can be a major player in the concert industry," Hyman said.

Tickets will go on sale June 27 in the Alerus Center Box Office. Prices will range from $39.50 to $495. Some seats will be on stage.

The concert, presented in the round, will be the biggest entertainment event he's been associated with in his career, Hyman said. The show puts 60 or more performers on stage and takes 30 semi trailers to transport from venue to venue.

The $50 million production features Spears in the role as a ringmaster surrounded by dancers, singers, clowns and acrobats. It kicked off in March in New Orleans and is the highest grossing tour of 2009 so far, according to Billboard.com.

According to britneyspears.com, the singer has sold more than 63 million albums worldwide. Her sixth album, "Circus," has sold 1.6 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to ptobin@gfherald.com . Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to jjohnson1@gfherald.com .

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