History Culture Lawrence Welk
Lawrence Welk Helped Create Nation’s
Image of N.D.
Jacobs, Mike. "Lawrence Welk Helped Create Nation's Image of N.D." Grand Forks Herald, 19 May 1992.
There’s a special feeling of sadness in
North Dakota today following the death of Lawrence Welk. Probably
Welk did more than any person to sharpen the image of North Dakota
in the national consciousness. Many North Dakotans don’t
like the image, and Welk himself provided many opportunities for
disagreement. There’s no denying that he spotted an opportunity,
created a career and in the process pleased millions.
Simply told, Welk’s story is a story of entrepreneurism.
He saw a niche and moved to fill it. In the process, he became
very, very wealthy. He hobnobbed with celebrities and became
a celebrity himself--arguably the biggest celebrity North Dakota
has ever produced. The state lays claim to a surprising number
of entertainers: singer Peggy Lee, actress Angie Dickinson,
writer Louis L’Amour. None achieved quite the status that
Welk enjoyed, however. His weekly TV program was so popular
that he created his own distribution company.
Welk never forgot North Dakota. He visited frequently. He welcomed
North Dakotans as guests on his show and made a point of presenting
them to the cameras--and his worldwide audience. He promoted
Nor has North Dakota forgotten Welk. The Welk Heritage Foundation
will dedicate the restoration of the Welk homestead near Strasburg
on June 7. The homestead recalls Welk’s background as
the son of immigrants, and it celebrates the courage and tenacity
of the people who settled North Dakota. The memorial pays special
tribute to the Germans from Russia, but their story has resonance
with the descendants of other immigrants who came to the Great
It’s true that Welk was often so corny he could make
an adult groan. It’s also true that he played music adults
could dance to. He has a special role in mass society, and Welk
was a kind of bridge, representing both the solo instrumentalist
who worked the crowds at country school houses and the leader
of an orchestra who created a highly produced TV program watched
North Dakota is right to be proud of Welk and to have honored
him as the first recipient of the Roughrider Award. It’s
sad to have him go.
Reprinted with permission of Grand Forks Herald.
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael