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Published September 04, 2011, 03:44 PM

Duhamel Visit, Black Eyed Peas Concert Lift Spirits in Minot

About 16,000 people packed into the North Dakota State Fairgrounds to watch the Black Eyed Peas rock the night away Saturday night for a benefit concert to help flood victims.

By: Teri Finneman, Forum Communications

MINOT, N.D. – Minot had a feeling it was going to be a good night. And it was.

About 16,000 people packed into the North Dakota State Fairgrounds to watch the Black Eyed Peas rock the night away Saturday night for a benefit concert to help flood victims.

The celebrity-filled evening was a welcome relief for many Minot residents who are still recovering from the devastating aftermath of flooding earlier this summer that displaced 11,000 residents, or one-fourth of the city.

Tom Moody of Minot and his family were near the front of the line waiting for the doors to open Saturday night. The family is still living in a shelter after their home was destroyed in the flood. They hope to move into FEMA housing in a few weeks and were ready for an evening to have some fun.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Moody said of the concert. “It’s bringing people out and bringing them together.”

Minot native and actor Josh Duhamel was instrumental in pulling the night together. Duhamel is married to Fergie, a singer for the Black Eyed Peas.

Before the concert, Duhamel said the event turned out better than he expected.

“I feel like I’m getting more credit than I deserve for this whole thing. Honestly, all I did was I called my wife,” he said to laughter and cheers.

It was Fergie’s idea to get the entire band to North Dakota and make the benefit concert happen, he said.

Duhamel praised the hundreds of volunteers at the event, Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman and his own mother for all of the cooking she did the past few days.

“This community has been so strong,” said Duhamel, honorary chairman of the Minot Area Recovery Fund. “It just makes me so proud to be from here.”

Zimbelman encouraged his city to hang in there and said they would get through everything together and build a better Minot.

“The Black Eyed Peas,” he said as the crowd roared. “Who would have thought they’d be in Minot, North Dakota?”

At 8:35 p.m., bass thumped throughout the fairgrounds as the Black Eyed Peas performed “Rock That Body.” The audience screamed, snapping pictures and dancing, putting aside the worries of recent months for at least a few hours.

Fergie also gave a speech to the crowd several songs into the show.

“This is a beautiful, beautiful vision for us, especially for me because I have family here now,” she said.

Duhamel’s sisters were among those affected by the flooding. Fergie said it was sad it took a tragedy to get to Minot, and it “didn’t take them (the band) a minute” to decide to come put on a show. She thanked Minot for having them.

Will.i.am said there were a lot of places in the world that they could have been Labor Day weekend.

“We’ve been all around the world, and I wouldn’t have chose a better place to be,” he said to cheers. “It feels so good to be here with you guys tonight on Labor Day weekend.”

During the two-hour concert, the band incorporated “North Dakota” into a few songs and worked to get the crowd energized, performing signature hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Just Can’t Get Enough.”

Confetti and lights filled the sky as the band and crowd sang “I gotta feeling/that tonight’s gonna be a good night.”

“It might be small, but it has the biggest heart in America,” Fergie yelled out to the Minot crowd. “North Dakota, we love you so much!”

Prior to the concert, large screens showed some of the devastating scenes from the flood: helicopters swirling the city, city blocks rampaged with water, a child wanting to go home.

Heidi Flory of Williston brought her son, John, 12, to the event, which was his first concert. She said she normally wouldn’t spend $100 for a concert ticket, but this time was different.

“It goes toward a good cause,” she said. “I would hope that they would do the same if it was us in Williston.”

All proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales will benefit flood victims, said Brekka Kramer of Odney, a public relations firm in Minot.

She said it would be a few days before they knew how much money the concert raised, but there was $800,000 in corporate sponsorships alone.

Duhamel has said he hopes to raise $1.5 million to $2 million from the event.

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