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A Night to Remember

6/28/2010:

The American flag was raised, and decorations of sandbags, flowers and trees were in place. More than 1,200 teenagers from the Grand Forks area entered under the arches of the Air Force Honor Guard's raised swords. And the prom of the century began.

The school year had come to an abrupt halt around mid-April of 1997, due to the Hundred Years Flood that washed out most of the Grand Forks area. Classes were canceled, plans were changed, and proms were put on hold. The teens of the city banded together — working hard to sandbag, fight off the flood, and save their homes from the rising water.

It was the idea of the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office, namely Bob Rost, that got the ball rolling for the post-flood prom. Never in history had the city's three high schools — Red River, Central and Community — put cross-town rivalries aside and thrown a combined prom. But never in history had the city been flooded to this extent. The Grand Forks Air Base stepped in to help the local teens — offering space for the prom, decorations and chaperones. And due to the influence of North Carolina philanthropist Marie Wilber-Carr, a big name rock band was found to play at the prom — for free. Grammy Award winning, Minnesota's own Soul Asylum arrived in Grand Forks to play "prom music" to the masses.

The teens, dressed in tuxedos, borrowed dresses, and jeans, danced to such cover tunes as "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "To Sir with Love." Reporters and film crews crowded into the prom as well, reporting on the human interest side of the devastating flood. In the eye of the national media, the Grand Forks teens were portrayed as resilient, hard working and extremely grateful for the prom.

For those who were too old or too young to attend the prom of the century, a soundtrack of that special night can be found. Soul Asylum, the alternative-rock band who played at the historic event, released a compact disc titled, "After the Flood: Live from the Grand Forks Prom, June 28, 1997." The cover of the CD depicts a scene most can recall from the flood — a barn and grain silo surrounded by water, with a couple walking toward safety.

Due to community spirit, a sense of kinship, and a compassionate rock band, the teens of Grand Forks truly had a night to remember.

Sources:

CD Universe: Soul Asylum After the Flood: Live from the Grand Forks Prom June 28,1997-http://www.cd.universe.com/search/xx/music/pid/6814426/a/After+the+Flood+Live+from+the+Grand+Forks+Prom+June+28,+1997 htm

Sing 365.com-Soul Asylum biography-http://www.sing.365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Soul-Asylum-Biography/354FC234C5AB16F742568ACOOOFA18E

"Come Hell and High Water- The incredible story of the 1997 Red River Flood"-By the staff of the Grand Forks Herald and Knight-Ridder Newspapers. Pages 104-107

Dakota Datebook written by Jill Whitcomb