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Robb Jeffries, Forum News Service, Published February 17 2013

20,000 fans come to Grand Forks to see George Strait

GRAND FORKS - For Kelsey Shaw, it was going to be tough to beat her last time at a George Strait concert.

Shaw, of Jamestown, saw the country legend perform in Fargo in 2010 when her then-boyfriend, Joshua Shaw, proposed to her.

Now married, she accompanied her husband to the “George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away Tour” stop at the Alerus Center on Saturday in Grand Forks. Unlike many that travelled from Minnesota, Manitoba and elsewhere, the Shaws were not planning on staying in Grand Forks for the night. Kelsey Shaw was planning on driving the pair home.

“I’m pregnant, so it’s no problem for me to drive,” she said.

Around 20,000 fans packed the Alerus Center to see Strait on what he says is his final tour. Martina McBride opened for Strait, and while she had several loud ovations for her, many in attendance were there to see the main act.

“I grew up listening to George Strait,” said Brandon Raincloud of Ponemah, Minn. “I listened to him with my mom and dad, and my grandparents.”

With 50 No. 1 singles and numerous other songs to choose from, Raincloud pointed to Strait’s most recent single, “Give It All We Got Tonight,” as his favorite.

While McBride delighted the crowd with a mix of her own work and classic covers, Austin Maxwell, of Cartwright, Man., was in line at one of the merchandise tables in the arena. A “big-time” Strait fan, he bought a shirt, glass and a pink football jersey with the words “Strait Girl” on the back.

“This one isn’t for me,” he said of the jersey, “it’s for my buddy’s girlfriend.”

The concert was expected to be the biggest selling concert in the history of the Alerus Center, with unofficial reports of more than 20,000 tickets sold. The 2002 Cher concert held the top spot, with 19,531 tickets sold.

On-site parking reached the overflow spots in a field just south of the Alerus Center parking lot, and many took advantage of shuttle service to and from Ralph Engelstad Arena and Altru Health Systems.