It’s a fascinating aspect of American life that we celebrate our cultural heritage, whether it is Norwegian, Lithuanian, or Persian, in a variety of festivals. Food features prominently. It is also an easier way to experience another culture when you don’t have the time or money to travel. Sometimes it just whets your appetite to go!
Demonstrating how to make lefse
The Scandinavian Festival, held on one day at the Scottish Rite Temple near Sacramento State University, features many booths with various Scandinavian themed goods. Then in the main ballroom they sell tickets to buy food and have seating to watch the flag ceremony or the fashion show. Many people are dressed in traditional dresses or Norwegian sweaters. All decedents of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, or Finland are welcome, in addition the Sami indigenous people are also recognized as their own nation although they live across Norway, Sweden, Finland and part of Russia.
Two of the people in our group discovered they were Scandinavian thanks to 23 and Me so they were discovering cultural traditions like the food, like the delicious flatbread lefse made with potatoes. I also discovered there is such a thing as Viking reenactment. I sent a photo (see above) to my brother and found out that he reenacts being a Viking for his history classes at the Community College where he teaches. I learned something about my family too!
We continued our tour of cousins and drove from Des Moines to Decorah—after a stop in Bondurant to find Auntie J’s old home place, then north on I-35 and then across the state to the northeast corner in driving rain. We arrived later than we expected and a little emotionally wrung out from navigating in the rain and on unfamiliar roads. We checked into the historic hotel right on main street and then met our cousins and their friends for happy hour.
We had a very happy hour trying locally brewed beer and sharing stories with cousins Terri and Chuck and their friends Darrel and Betty. We then got the windshield tour of Decorah including Luther College, where many of the buildings were designed by Uncle Jack Thompson (now deceased).
We went for another big meal at McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita restaurant. Jeanette and I were beginning to feel like pigs being fattened for bacon and chops. I am going to have to figure out how to navigate the caloric landmines before I visit again.
Decorah takes great pride in their Nordic heritage. The high school mascot is the Vikings and the highlight on the summer calendar is Nordic Days. My cousins Terri and Chuck have a gem of a gift shop specializing in Norwegian gifts called Vanberia.
The next morning we met Terri and Chuck for breakfast (more bacon) at the hotel restaurant, Restauration, a spin off the name of the boat that brought the first Norwegian immigrants to America. Jeanette joined them for a quick trip to the cemetery to honor loved ones and I stayed behind to handle some memos and other work.
We met up and went shopping. Jeanette found a dress shop she really liked and I found the Blue Heron Knittery. We each made additional contributions to the local economy.
We said our goodbyes and then checked out the Norwegian-American museum. Vesterheim is an excellent small museum that focuses on the story of the Norwegian emigration to the USA. I also took a photo of main street (at top of post) as we got ready to leave town because it was heartwarming to see an intact small town not ravaged by edge of town Walmarts or strip malls.
A real whirlwind trip, we then drove back to Des Moines and on to Stuart.