Over a period of 28 hours this weekend, a national company will be accepting votes to gauge community enthusiasm about local hockey.

Kraft is offering a $150,000 reward to the town – technically, to an ice arena in the town – that receives the most votes in the company’s Hockeyville USA competition. Voting will take place between 6 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, and 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, at krafthockeyville.com.

East Grand Forks is among the four finalists, and if the city can generate the most votes this weekend, it will use its winnings for improvements at the Civic Center. Other arenas included in the contest are in El Paso, Texas; Wichita, Kan.; and River Falls, Wis.

Of the four, East Grand Forks is the smallest. River Falls has some 15,000 residents, but El Paso and Wichita have more than 600,000 and 300,000 residents, respectively.

East Grand Forks has just 8,600 residents; but with neighboring Grand Forks, the population jumps to more than 60,000 – still an underdog to Wichita and El Paso.

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But do those larger communities have the passion for hockey that exists in Greater Grand Forks? We’ll see this weekend. Importantly, fans backing the towns will be allowed an unlimited number of votes throughout the 28-hour period.

For a moment, let’s table the obvious: That East Grand Forks, and Greater Grand Forks in general, is a hockey community with all sorts of connections to the national college scene, the NHL and other professional leagues worldwide.

The truth is that the Civic Center needs work, and the $150,000 provided to the winner could help make lasting improvements to the facility. As reported previously in the Herald, the top priority is new ice-making machinery. It also needs upgrades to make it safer and to conform with modern Americans with Disabilities Act standards. There are similar issues at East Grand Forks’ other facility, VFW Memorial Arena. All told, the projected costs come to about $11 million.

The $150,000 prize money offered up by Kraft is just a drop in that sizeable bucket, but it certainly would help. It also would reduce taxpayer input.

Obvious renovations notwithstanding, Greater Grand Forks should mobilize this weekend to vote in the contest simply for the sake of community pride.

As noted in a Herald report earlier this week, East Grand Forks won consecutive state titles in 2014 and 2015 and also has produced numerous NCAA Division I players. In four of the past five seasons, an East Grand Forks player has been captain of the highly successful UND hockey team. Several players from East Grand Forks have cracked NHL rosters.

Grand Forks – which has produced so many state high school champions, national college champions and NHL players of its own – isn’t technically in the Kraft contest, but its help will be needed this weekend as East Grand Forks competes for the Hockeyville USA title.

No community boosts, backs and loves hockey like Greater Grand Forks.

Vote this weekend, and vote often. Let’s show how much hockey matters here.