NORDIC FEST 2017 DECORAH, IOWA
WOW Nordic Fest sure didn't disappoint this year! It was jam packed with so many fun events that I wasn't able to capture them all. The event spans three days every July and despite the common heat wave, you'll want to spend the entire day outside taking in as many festivities and eating as much food as possible.
One of the biggest highlights of the fest is the parade on Saturday morning. The Decorah Nordic Dancers made their annual appearance, which included pit stops for dancing throughout the parade. The Decorah High School Marching Band performed as well. Luther College Norsemen made their way through which included two of my nephews driving their blue truck decked out in Luther Norse gear. Other participants were the Luran Singers, Girl Scouts, Sons of Norway, and area businesses. Be sure to click through the gallery and see if anyone you know was in the parade! If you're from Decorah you probably will.
Ok moving on to one of the most important elements of the fest... the FOOD! This year we had the honor of hosting the Queen of Norwegian Waffles, Stine Aasland. She began in Norway making waffles which gave her the title and has since moved to the states. She now resides in Minneapolis and makes waffles with her company called Nordic Waffles. They had a berry and vanilla sour cream waffle, nutella, and even one with salmon on it! My husband and I stuck with the berry and sour cream one, but we ate multiple each. Learn more at NordicWaffles.com.
There is of course many other food vendors too. You can get varme polse (warm sausage), krumkakke, lefse, kringle, limonade (lemonade), pork chops and more. The booths on the main strip are run by volunteers with proceeds going to various groups and sports teams around town. The set up really makes it easy to talk yourself into eating more. It's all for a good cause so why not?!
The Nordic Dancers of Decorah are also one of the many highlights of the fest. They perform multiple times throughout the fest. This was during the closing ceremony and always gets a great turnout of spectators. The closing ceremony is likely the best performance to go to because all past Nordic Dancer Alumni are invited down to participate in the dances too. If you aren't familiar with the group, you should know that not just anyone can become a Nordic Dancer. You need to be aged in the right class because tryouts are only held once every four years.
The kubb tournament was back by popular demand as well. Kubb is an old game that was played by the Vikings. It is fairly simple, but opponents can easily overcome a near loss to go on and win. My husband beat myself and my neighbor playing when we were down to just the king (the last pillar to knock out).
Speaking of Vikings.. they were there too!! These area group members gave a quick overview of the Viking history and demonstrated some of their fighting techniques as well. I learned that Vikings never had horns on their helmets. According to this speaker, there has never been a Viking helmet unearthed that had horns or sockets for horns. Crazy right? Every pretend helmet I have seen has them on it. I do think they look cooler though with them so I don't mind the mistake.
This guy came all the way from Los Angeles, CA to participate in the rock-throwing contest. I am sure he participated in many other things too however. I didn't manage to see who won the contest because I headed indoors to meet the vendors too. There were easily a hundred people watching this contest go down. Both men and women participated in it.
The organizers of Nordic Fest do a nice job including many area groups in the festivities too. Pictured here are American Veterans that participated in the Quilts of Valor presentation. The mission of the foundation is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. The quilts are made by local artists and awarded to members of the military. These guys were a hoot. They weren't receiving the quilts, but instead presenting the flags as part of the ceremony. I asked them if they knew my grandpa Merv, who was a veteran himself that had passed nearly 10 years ago now and of course they did. Small towns for you! Like I said you always know someone!
This is one of the many quilts that were given during the ceremony.
Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum opens their doors for spectators to explore the grounds with the help of volunteers. The museum has both indoor and outdoor exhibits. I particularly enjoyed checking out the textiles and functionality of the tools used by the immigrants. Everything was practical in nature with a twist of design and detail added. It reminded me of the old saying "nothing is worth doing if it isn't done right." The skills and techniques carried over from Norway were amazing. Just imagine having to build your own home along with everything in it. That would be a lot of work. If I had to do it (which my husband and I have rebuilt most of our own home) I wouldn't take the time to add intricate details to everything especially without the help of modern tools!
Within the Vesterheim grounds were a number of demonstrators. Pictured here is Bill Jaeger of Norden Woodcarving demonstrating how he carves wooden figures.
Here is a blacksmith demonstrator. He had his own fire setup and was explaining the process of making and repairing items made with iron by hand.
There were rosemaling and other carving demonstrators as well. Diane Fossum-Martin of Vesterheim is the Education Specialist on staff and participated in the event as well.
Andrea Myklebust of Black Cat Farmstead showed spectators the art of creating and working with wool. She has been connected with Vesterheim for many years and offers tours at North Star Farm. You can learn more at NorthStarFarmTour.com
This gentleman didn't have a card for me to grab, but he was demonstrating the walking loom. It got its name due to the fact that you are continuously walking forwards and backwards while making the yarn.
James Ray Miller has been woodcarving ever since he was a very young boy and took courses from Harley Refsal just like I did. He had multiple different figurines on display at the Nordic Fest Market for sale. He currently attends Luther College and continues to carve whenever he can find time.
In addition to the figurines, James also makes instruments. Pictured here is the psalmodikon, which was developed in Scandinavia for music in churches and schools. It typically has only one string and was used for sacred music since dance instruments were considered inappropriate for church.
This dear lady was so sweet and excited for me to take a picture of her and her work. Her name is Barb Hagelie of West Union, IA. She does amazing work so if you're interested shoot me a note and I will connect you with her directly. She says she doesn't work with computers often so my hope is one of her friends can show her this picture.
Last but not least is John Drewes of Mad Toad Leathercraft and Knives. He also does amazing work! He works in zoomorphic designs, the migration period, Viking age and barbarian paraphernalia He also doesn't have a website, but if you are interested in learning more I will connect you to him as well.
This blog post may be long, but it didn't include many of the events that were going on. There was also a lutefisk eating contest (cod in lye) where the contestants have to flip their empty bowl on top of their head once they are finished! The fish runs down their faces as they smile in joy for having just eaten one of the most disgusting foods ever (in my opinion of course). This year there was a controversy over the winner because both participants put the bowls on their head at nearly the same time, but the woman had cleaned her bowl and swallowed the fish while the man had leftovers dripping down his face and his mouth bulging with cod. The audience was allowed to decide giving the trophy to the woman. Whoop another victory for the ladies! If you would like to learn more please visit the Nordic Fest website.