Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Searching for famous people...

Posted 2/20/18 (Tue)

Several weeks ago we discussed famous athletes from North Dakota and later movie stars who got their start here.

As a subsequent thought, maybe it would be a good idea to see how many famous people in general have visited North Dakota.

This isn’t necessarily famous people from North Dakota, but famous people who have visited.

If you do an Internet search, it will almost always come up “famous people from North Dakota.” So you have to dig really deep to find some of the answers.

First, I thought I’d check with presidents of the United States. Fifteen have visited since this area became Dakota Territory in 1861, beginning with Rutheford B. Hayes and Chester Arthur, who both dropped in while it was still Dakota Territory.

A number of other presidents have visited for one reason or another, most notably John F. Kennedy, who spoke at the University of North Dakota just two months before his assassination in Dallas in 1963.

Both Roosevelts have been here along with Wilson and Eisenhower. In recent years, the most notable visit was Bill Clinton who visited the Grand Forks Air Force Base in 1997 after 50,000 people were displaced from the Red River flood in April of that year.

Beyond presidents, information gets really sketchy. Many famous people have been here, but it’s almost as if you have to connect several dots to figure it out.

Without having to do any research whatsoever, I can tell you that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in Fargo. I happened to be in Fargo in 1993 when Thatcher’s plane landed at Hector Field to go through customs. Fargo radio stations were all over that.

There was some sort of customs problem so Thatcher’s plane was diverted from Winnipeg so she could pass through customs.

On July 12, 2017, Mark Zuckerberg, made famous by Facebook, visited the Bakken area because he wanted to learn about the nation’s energy supply.

During the Christmas holiday in 2005, Wayne Gretzky was seen in Grand Forks attending the World Junior Hockey Tournament at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

That is when Gretzky made his famous comment to the media that he “would kill to play in this arena.”

Babe Ruth was also in the state. The website for the community of Portal states Ruth was passing through on a Soo Line passenger train and stopped in Portal.

Since Portal is the beginning and the end of North Dakota, we can safely assume that Mr. Ruth traveled through the state and perhaps stopped in Minot, Harvey or Carrington along that same route.

Back in 1950, former King Edward of England, who, at the time was the Duke of Windsor, also made his presence in Portal, stopping there on his way to a ranch he owned in Alberta.

Hollywood actors have also been in the state and perhaps the most obvious were the three famous actors who starred in “Wooly Boys,”  which was filmed in Medora, Beach and other parts of the Badlands.

Peter Fonda and Kris Kristofferson were the main characters in the movie while Keith Carradine was the sheriff.

Peter Fonda had been in the state several times prior to that movie that included a stop in the Carpio area while on a cross-country motorcycle ride.

You may have to put an asterisk on this one but actor Robert Redford and musician Neil Young, of Crosby Stills Nash and Young fame, were both here last year to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Others were there too like presidential candidate Jill Stein, but nobody as well known as Redford and Young.

When we look at musicians, we would probably have a list that would never end.

But over the years, there have been some high-level bands and singers in this state.

Probably the most famous to come here was Paul McCartney, who played a concert in the Fargodome in July 2014. During that concert, he played a number of tunes that he and John Lennon wrote while they were Beatles.

In the spring of 1997 after Grand Forks was evacuated, the two high schools combined their proms into one and the group Soul Asylum played a free concert for the kids.

Others have made their mark as well such as Elton John and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane.

So when we think we are a frozen, forgotten place, think again. Lots of famous people have been here and more will come.