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MEDIA ADVISORY: At UND, celebration of Grand Forks’ 150th anniversary begins

On Sunday, April 28, UND Voice studios will commemorate Grand Forks’ 150th anniversary in concert featuring sounds, sights, people and events of city

Photo caption: Downtown Grand Forks, circa 1873. Grand Forks County Historical Society photo

“At this time, the place consisted of the Hudson Bay company’s store and hotel, also another hotel built the previous year, Capt. Griggs’ house, the saw-mill, and a small number of cabins and shacks.” That was Grand Forks in 1874, according to H.V. Arnold’s 1900 work, “History of Grand Forks County.”

The year 1874 also saw the official establishment of Grand Forks County and the opening of the townsite of Grand Forks to legal settlement. Today, the year is the starting point for the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission’s 150th Anniversary celebration, “Grand Forks 1874-2024.”

A UND Digital Press e-book, plus an upcoming event involving faculty and students from three academic departments, will be among the highlights of UND’s efforts to commemorate that anniversary.

The event is titled “UND Voice Recital: Grand Forks 150,” and it will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, in the Hughes Fine Arts Center’s Josephine Campbell Recital Hall on campus.

Some background: Over the past semester, students in Associate Professor Nikki Berg Burin’s “History 331: Seminar in Great Plains History” collaborated with the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission to produce a series of short essays on the history of the city. Each essay is 150 words long.

And at the “UND Voice Recital: Grand Forks 150” event, UND voice students under the tutelage of Assistant Professor Justin Montigne and Associate Professor Anne Christopherson will declaim – meaning formally recite – seven of those History students’ essays, accompanied by an improvised soundscape created by UND’s contemporary music ensemble, Section 17. Section 17 is under the direction of Teaching Associate Professor Christopher Gable.

“From its early days as an important river port in the North American fur trade, through the boom in European immigration, the rise of the railroads, creation of UND and more, Grand Forks has been home to a diverse and fascinating array of people,” the calendar announcement for the event describes. “Join us to hear their stories told through music and celebrate a big birthday for Grand Forks!”

The event will be live-streamed at for those unable to attend in person. 

In addition, writing and publishing students in UND’s Department of English are working with Berg Burin and Associate Professor Bill Caraher to assemble and edit the “First Fifty” of these essays into book form. The book is being published by The Digital Press at UND; an early version is available for downloading at the Digital Press’ website.

Over the next few years, the plan is to continue release 100 more of these short essays, for a total of 150, in both physical and digital publications for distribution to libraries and local and regional stakeholders.

Questions? Please contact any of the professors listed and linked to above, or Tracy Backstrom, director of Alumni & External Relations at the UND College of Arts & Sciences, at or 701.777.6240.

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Grand Forks at 150 — The First Fifty (1 MB): Digital Press of UND book cover