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BlackHawk brings the '90s back to East Grand Forks at first night of Happy Harry's Rockin’ Up North Fest

BlackHawk, known for '90s country hits “I’m Not Strong Enough to Say No” and “Goodbye Says It All,” played for a lively and large crowd at the outdoor concert on Aug. 19.

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Members of Blackhawk perform for an enthusiastic crowd Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in East Grand Forks at the Happy Harry's Rockin' Up North Fest.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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EAST GRAND FORKS – As the sun set over the Red River on Friday night, the lights went up on BlackHawk, with their 1994 hit “Up in Flames" at Happy Harry's Rockin' Up North Fest. East Grand Forks buzzed with country fans — a good mix of young and old — as the first night of the festival drew to a close.

BlackHawk, known for ‘90s country hits “I’m Not Strong Enough to Say No” and “Goodbye Says It All,” played for a lively and large crowd at the outdoor concert. The band took the stage at 9:30 p.m., after the Jensen Sisters and Little Texas played earlier that evening.

“It’s good to be back here in Grand Forks,” lead singer Henry Paul said before launching into a cover of Restless Heart’s “Big Dreams in a Small Town,” which was written for the band by late BlackHawk member Van Stephenson.

BlackHawk last played at the East Grand Forks Civic Center in 2019.

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Fans cheer on Blackhawk Friday, August 19, 2022 at the Rockin' Up North Fest in East Grand Forks.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Before BlackHawk’s set, concert-goers milled about the venue, which was fenced by food trucks and beer tents. Many brought camp chairs to relax and watch the show, while others got up and danced as the band started their set with a lineup of their most well-known songs.


Joe Watson and Brandi Gratton attended Friday night’s show together. Though longtime fans of BlackHawk, it was the first time seeing the band.

“We’re here for good music and to support the town,” said Watson.

Their favorite BlackHawk song, “Goodbye Says It All,” was second on the set list for the night. The song was also the first single BlackHawk released in 1993, breaking the band into the country music scene. All four singles from the band's subsequent self-titled debut album — “Every Once in a While,” “I Sure Can Smell the Rain,” “Down in Flames” and “That’s Just About Right” — reached Top 10 status on the country music charts.

The band’s second album, “Strong Enough,” saw similar success in 1995 with singles “I’m Not Strong Enough to Say No” and “Like There Ain’t No Yesterday” peaking at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. The band has since released seven more studio albums, most recently “Blue Highway” in June of this year.

BlackHawk was originally made up of Paul as lead vocalist, Stephenson on the electric guitar and Dave Robbins on keyboard. Stephenson left the band due to complications from skin cancer in 2000, and after that the band’s lineup shuffled, eventually landing back on original members Paul and Robbins.

BlackHawk’s performance closed out the first night of the Happy Harry's Rockin’ Up North Fest, but the festival returns on Saturday night with performances by Paint the Town, Love & Theft and Michael Ray.

The festival is one of many events in Greater Grand Forks over the weekend. Saturday also sees the Rollin’ on the River Inline Skate Marathon, the Downtown Street Fair, Jog Your Memory Alzheimer’s 5K and Downtown Farmers Market.

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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