Historical and Traditional Music
in
Grand Forks

The Pavilion at Bachelor's Grove

Research and story by Seth Custer

 

In the past fifty years, several key venues have had a tremendous impact on the music culture in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.  One of these is the Pavilion at Bachelorís Grove, located about thirty miles west of Grand Forks near McCanna, North Dakota.  Bachelorís Grove is a section of woods several miles long and about a mile wide.  It got its name from several single men who owned the bulk of the property there from the early to mid 1900ís.

In 1919, a plot of land was purchased by a man who wanted to build a facility that would eventually become an entertainment complex. The plot, located on the southeast end of the Grove, covers about fourteen acres. On one end is a field used for a variety of events, including softball and other sports. A large track was also built around that end of the property to be used for various competitions.

Of the buildings that were built in those first years, all but one have fallen down or been removed. The one building still standing is the Pavilion itself, which the whole facility is now known for.

The Pavilion is a very large, square building with a tall hip roof. It has a complex rafter system inside. It is easy to see why it has lasted so long, after looking at the size and quality of the beams that were used in building it. The floor is one of the most remarkable things about the Pavilion, as it is all hardwood. There is no basement, but the foundation was laid so that the building sits on its cement foundation about three feet off the ground. For a long time, the floor had a wonderful finish on it. Although that has long since worn off, it is still as smooth as ever.

The interior is remarkably well preserved, considering that the building has never been sealed up or winterized. One would expect much more deterioration than has actually occurred.  On the east side there is a set of double doors, and one single door on the north side.  On the south side of the building is the stage, which has been used as such for many, many years.

There is no way of knowing everything that took place at this facility it its early years, but its most productive years as an entertainment center occurred in and around the 1950ís. At this time the Pavilion, and the venue as a whole, were owned by Clinton Rodningen of Grand Forks. He wanted to create a place where both farmers and Grand Forks residents could come for entertainment. One could expect anything from ball games to horseraces, both of which were very popular.  There was a beer garden, a kitchen, and a shack where fireworks were sold, because the 4th of July holiday was the biggest event of the year at Bachelorís Grove.

Perhaps the biggest draw of the place was the live music held in the Pavilion itself.  Bands would come from all over and set up on that stage for a show.  A lot of dancing took place, and it was a great place to roller skate, because of the excellent quality of the floor. Musicians in Grand Forks found the Pavilion an excellent place to play; this became yet another venue that was a drawing point for the whole community.

The property was sold about 1962, to a man who did a poor job with it and sold it again after a couple of years. This time it was bought by Gordon Silcox and Bible Baptist Church. It has seen nearly forty productive years since that time. It is used for a youth camp, and several camps are held there every year. The history still lingers about the place though; one can still see the thumbtacks on the rafters where posters of all the rock bands that played there hung. If a person takes the time to walk through the surrounding woods, you can still find old liquor bottles, and the old fireworks shack is sitting out there as well.

New buildings have been built, but the old kitchen and the Pavilion still stand, and are in great condition.  Music still takes place there on the 4th of July, but of a much different nature.

For all the changes that have taken place in that little plot of land near McCanna, North Dakota, it will always be an integral part of the history of music in the Greater Grand Forks area.