FARGO — An announcement from the overhead speakers addressed travelers last Thursday as two local musicians set up for a gig in what could be considered an unusual venue by most bands.

But for The Cropdusters, a local folk and blues group, playing inside Hector International Airport was just one of many unique places they’ve broken into lively song. From restaurants and bars to corporate events crafting markets and The Red River Zoo, they’re no strangers to making music in public places.

With limited gigs through the COVID-19 pandemic, though, playing at the airport is more than an adage to the many different types of places they have played in. The hourlong performance on Nov. 19 allowed the artists to stay in touch with their craft.

“I think it's really important, just to stay relevant, and keep our musical chops in order,” says band lead Dustin Ellingson.

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As the bassist for the band, Ellingson works with four regular musicians in various combinations. New-to-the-group musicians are often brought in to change things up.

Adjacent to the gift shop inside the airport, Ellingson jammed out with Nathan Pitcher to kick off a series of free concerts presented by The Arts Partnership.

Distancing themselves from the public with stanchion barriers, The Cropdusters returned to the public realm after many months of livestreaming at a distance to their audiences.

“Comparatively, for what we make every year, it's just bleak, so I thought it'd be a good time to hunker down in the studio and offer quality livestreaming service for cheap,” Ellingson says about his current plans for the band.

Members of The Cropdusters (from right) include Dustin “Duster” Ellingson, Steve Burket and Nathan Pitcher. Special to The Forum
Members of The Cropdusters (from right) include Dustin “Duster” Ellingson, Steve Burket and Nathan Pitcher. Special to The Forum

The band was one nine local musicians and bands that got grants to record albums and launch projects funded in part by Jade Presents of Fargo. The Cropdusters used their $2,500 grant to get better video equipment and set up a dedicated studio space.

“My neighbors don't like that my creativity wakes up around 11 p.m. I've always needed a place where I could be loud out of the house,” Ellingson says.

The group was among the majority of performers who took to the internet in the spring to entertain people as many shifted to working from home or were required to quarantine.

Starting out working with iPhone-quality video, The Cropdusters eventually took to the stage in front of studio-quality equipment thanks to the Live @ Livewire series in an effort to keep the live industry at work and encourage interactions online with the bands.

“You could tell that there was activity in the feed with people having conversations and engaging with each other,” Ellingson says about the experience.

Dustin Ellingson and Nathan Pitcher of The Cropdusters perform Thursday, Nov. 19, at Hector International Airport as part of a series of free performances hosted by the airport throughout the holiday season. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Dustin Ellingson and Nathan Pitcher of The Cropdusters perform Thursday, Nov. 19, at Hector International Airport as part of a series of free performances hosted by the airport throughout the holiday season. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Now the band plans to bring real-world experience with streaming virtual shows to other local musicians by offering up the new studio space.

“I want to stream ourselves as well as anybody else who wants to go live on the internet, not have to worry about the video side of it,” says Ellingson.

And for audience members at home, Ellingson welcomes people to enjoy the ambience no matter what they might be up to.

“Turn on a livestream and be there while you clean your house or something,” says Ellingson.

Starting with visual art installed by the baggage claims, the ArtWORKS program from The Arts Partnership is now in its second year of bringing musical acts to the airport over the holiday season.

Visit fargoairport.com/musical-performances-at-hector-international-airport/ to learn more about the upcoming performances.

Upcoming concerts

  • 12:45 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27: Dan Christianson
  • noon Dec. 4: Deborah Harris
  • 11:45 a.m. Dec. 9: Jake Ingamar
  • 12:45 p.m. Dec. 17: Jessica Vines and Conor Lee
  • 11:30 a.m. Dec. 22: Silver Winds Flute Quartet
  • noon Dec. 30: The Kicks Band of Fargo-Moorhead Trio
  • noon Jan. 6: Kwaician Traylor

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.