Community Profile: Grand Forks, North Dakota

By Stephen Manuszak

Grand Forks, North Dakota has a population of 52,000 and traces its history back to the 1800s when fur and other commodities were traded in the area. The city was officially founded in 1870 by steamboat captain Alexander Griggs. Fur trading eventually gave way to agriculture, which is still an important part of the local economy along with higher education, national defense, health care, manufacturing, food processing, and scientific research.

Grand Forks is named for the fork at which the Red River and Red Lake River converge. Many of us remember that Grand Forks suffered a devastating fire and flood in 1997, but the city deserves to be remembered for much more than this unfortunate historical event. Grand Forks boasts:

  • One of the lowest unemployment rates in the country
  • Recognition for its wonderful quality of life by numerous measures
  • A very highly regarded school system
  • An historic downtown district nominated to the National Register of Historic Places
  • A terrific arts scene

A small town mainstreet with turn-of-the century storefronts
Grand Forks, downtown. Photo by Ross Griff, CC-BY-2.0

Fun Fact

After a design contest and city-wide vote, the City Council adopted a new flag on December 5, 1994, that represents the spirit of the city and region. A white background represents the fresh, clean air and open environment. A blue section that splits at the bottom of the flag represents the river forks and its role as the foundation of the community. Green represents the river banks, life, and future growth along the river. The red feather recognizes the area’s Native American heritage, while the yellow stalk represents the community’s reliance on agriculture.

Flag of Grand Forks, ND with a red feather and yellow stalk
Flag of Grand Forks, ND

Community Partner

North Valley Arts Council

North Valley Arts Council (NoVAC), Arts Midwest’s partner for the 2013–2015 cycle of Arts Midwest World Fest, is a big reason that Grand Forks is such a desirable place to live. NoVAC supports and promotes arts and culture for the artists, arts organizations, and citizens of Greater Grand Forks. NoVAC envisions a community where artists and arts groups have the means to create and further their art forms; to draw and cultivate audiences that appreciate, support and participate in the arts; to play a key role in fostering a vibrant quality of life of the Upper Red River Valley; and to clearly add to the economic success of the region.

NoVAC supports its vision with truly engaging programming. Plan a trip to Grand Forks around a NoVAC event like Grand Cities Art Fest, June 14 and 15, and enjoy a diverse gathering of artistic talent, food, and entertainment that highlights the region’s unique culture. Or stroll through downtown Grand Forks and neighboring East Grand Forks as part of Art & Wine Walk to view work by local artists at galleries, restaurants, and local businesses, and enjoy samples of wine or other refreshments along the way. The event happens every third Saturday of June through October. And you won’t want to miss Zombie Music Fest in the fall!

Paulo Padilha and Group from Brazil will be the third Arts Midwest World Fest ensemble to visit Grand Forks with the residency scheduled October 12-18, 2014. No doubt Paulo and the group will enjoy their time in vibrant Grand Forks. Check it out yourself!

Residency Dates

September 22–28, 2013 — Le Vent du Nord
March 2 – March 15, 2014 — Baladino
October 12–18, 2014 — Paulo Padilha and Group
Spring 2015 — Shanren


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