The event also includes a silent auction, which ends when the Great Ring closes at 7 p.m. The Grand Forks Salvation Army is closed for Thanksgiving and Friday, November 26. The winners of the silent auction items can come on Wednesday, November 24 to choose up to their prizes.
Items up for auction include two tickets to Brantley Gilbert’s concert at the Alerus Center on December 16, a propane stove and other items, including gift cards to various local bars, restaurants and stores. Grand Forks Salvation Army Maj. Paul Ferguson said the items will continue to be added to the auction until the day it begins.
The Big Ring is the biggest Salvation Army Grand Forks fundraising event of the year, and the Grand Forks Chapter is the only one that hosts the event each year. People can visit Valley Dairy stores in Grand Forks at 4706 S. Washington St. and 1220 University Ave. to have their gas tanks filled by volunteers. Businesses, organizations and individuals donate a certain amount of pennies per gallon sold per transaction.
Ferguson said The Big Ring accounts for about 10% of all funds the Grand Forks Salvation Army raises each year. It grossed around $ 50,000 in 2020.
“We have spas that do things,” Ferguson said. “Browning Arts is donating something for framing work, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Farmers Insurance, we’ve got all kinds of stuff. “
Ferguson, a recent addition to the Salvation Army from Grand Forks, joined four months ago after relocating from St. Louis. This is Ferguson’s sixth church in 23 years as Salvation Army pastor. His wife also served with him all the time.
Ferguson said Salvation Army pastors are often relocated due to employment needs in other locations. He joked that being originally from southern Ontario, he was happy to return to a more familiar climate.
“They might have found people who like snow and cold, because I love cross-country skiing, and for 10 years, I think I went skiing three times in Saint-Louis”, Ferguson said. “They don’t get a lot of snow. So, now we are back in the land of winter.
The Salvation Army’s first bell ringer was Captain Joseph McFee, who created it in San Francisco in 1891. The practice spread and evolved using auto-ringing kettles, booths that played Christmas music and even kettles that accept credit cards.
Ferguson said a few bell ringers have already appeared in Grand Forks and more will appear after Thanksgiving.
“You will see bell ringers in most good sized towns,” Ferguson said. “You’ll see a lot of them in Fargo. We have 13 locations here in Grand Forks. All will be satisfied.
Those who wish to volunteer for the Big Ring to pump gasoline at one of the two sites can go to grandforkssa.org for more information.