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Duhamel added to excitement over weekend

There was a unique buzz Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena, and it had nothing to do with UND's big lead — and eventual big win — over Minnesota.

The excitement was generated by Josh Duhamel, and whether he would mingle among the locals during period breaks. So if the concourses seemed busier than usual, it's very possible those fans weren't just waiting to cheer on the UND band as it makes its traditional second-period march around the arena.

That's the kind of electricity that can be generated by a Hollywood star, and it's why Duhamel is a good choice to head efforts to bring tourists to North Dakota.

Duhamel's story is a good one. He is a Minot native and former college quarterback who went west and hit it big in California as a TV and movie star. His image appears to be squeaky clean.

Meanwhile, he's been touting North Dakota for free over the years, telling interviewers about the state and answering all sorts of questions about his roots. He has been a consistent North Dakota booster, so much so that he will receive an honorary doctorate degree from UND. That deserved award was announced earlier this month, after the State Board of Higher Education gave UND approval to begin the process.

According to UND President Mark Kennedy, the university "is proud to have Mr. Duhamel as an unwavering ambassador for the University of North Dakota and our entire state."

In 2016, North Dakota Tourism made Duhamel its cover boy. The advertising campaign that resulted showed Duhamel traveling the state, engaging in unique North Dakota events and scenarios.

TV and print commercials show him in the Badlands. And jamming on an accordion. And strolling down Broadway in Fargo, flanked by cheerleaders from NDSU and UND. In the spots, he is personable and even pokes fun at North Dakota's weather. And he seems genuine.

Do not begrudge Duhamel for receiving a healthy paycheck for these efforts. Forum News Service reported last year that Duhamel received $500,000 for his official work, but his constant boosting of North Dakota over the years probably has given the state millions of dollars in free marketing. The state is fortunate to get him on the payroll.

As the first round of Duhamel's adventures around North Dakota were for sightseeing, fishing and biking, another round is in the works. It looks positive for Grand Forks.

Duhamel spent most of Saturday shooting photos and video for a future tourism campaign. His day included visits to downtown Grand Forks, to the Alerus Center for Saturday's UND football game and, of course, to the hockey game Saturday night.

Local Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Julie Rygg is excited about the possibilities.

"They did such an amazing job at making sure you can really tell he is in Grand Forks," she told the Herald.

We are excited to see the finished product.

Almost as excited as Saturday's fans at the Alerus Center and the Ralph were to just get a simple glimpse of Duhamel.