Thirty-three years ago a group of Scandinavians from North Dakota sought to celebrate their heritage and values brought from the “old country.” Today the Norsk Hostfest attracts thousands from near and far to celebrate that heritage. This year the festival ran from September 28 through October 2.
During the Hostfest, Minot’s population of about 34,000 wined and dined an estimated 60,000 guests at the All Seasons Arena.
So many attractions, so little time. Big name stars such as Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Daniel O’Donnell and Bill Gaither comprised the paid attractions. Free shows were offered by The Oakridge Boys, The Indian and the White Guy and adbacadabra. Beyond the professional entertainers a multitude of booths offered everything Scandinavian including woodcarving demonstrations, spinning and weaving demonstrations, rosemaling, jewelry and jewelry making, folk dancing, books, art work and so much more. All blended together creating a memorable event for the crowds of visitors. Much Christmas shopping was accomplished throughout the halls.
Scandinavian food is always a big draw. Lingonberries, lefse, Danish pastries, klub, rommegrot, Scandinavian candy, kransekake, rosettes, fattigman, ponnukokur, vinarterta, cheeses and much more were available. Good ol’ American cuisine could be had as well: hot dogs, hamburgers and fries
Speaking of food, what would a gathering of Scandinavians be without lutefisk, that codfish delicacy? Certainly, a person could get their annual lutefisk fix at the Hostfest.
Tall tales abound regarding this gift from the sea. For example, one urban legend tells why the Irish like lutefisk. This tale is rooted in the days of Viking glory. It was the Nordic raiders who first introduced lutefisk to the Irish. Codfish preserved in lye served as a staple for these medieval seafarers.
During the Viking heyday of the 800s or so, Norsemen threatened the British Isles in search of plunder. Their legendary raids along the coast of Ireland kept the Irish from fishing for the plentiful cod in the surrounding waters. Centuries later after the Viking threat had subsided the Irish once again took to the waters in search of cod. By then the Irish, deprived of cod for so long, could not get enough of it. It mattered little how the fish was preserved just as long as they had their cod. In an attempt to make up for lost time, the Irish consumed lutefisk in quantity ever since.
TREASURE ISLAND - COINS AND PRECIOUS METALS
It may be a fanciful stretch, this tale of lutefisk and the Irish, but it justifies my personal taste for lutefisk. I’m not alone. Don’t let anyone kid you. A lot of people enjoy it.
But, enough already. Lutefisk is only a small part of the annual ethnic tribute to those who left Scandinavia and settled in what is now North Dakota.
New this year is Tromso Hall, the latest addition to the Hostfest. The arctic motif provides the setting for the first Hostfest Film Festival. The idea is to offer a variety of films that share a Scandinavian connection.
The premises of the All Seasons Arena was kept relatively tidy. With such a large assembly of people this is a plus. Of course, the state of cleanliness may vary between morning and evening. Nevertheless, the overall cleanliness is to be commended.
Crowd behavior is a good measure of Norsk Hostfest’s success. The entertainment, music and displays are all family oriented and consequently draw decent people. Then again, good behavior may also stem from the older more mature attendees. The gentle cultural appeal naturally draws a gentler crowd. Add to this the fact that, with a few exceptions, Hostfest is alcohol-free and you have a sober more docile gathering.
Uniquely, Norsk Hostfest celebrates cultural pride among those of Nordic heritage and descent. In this era of political correctness where Europeans are often portrayed as more of a liability than an asset, it is refreshing to witness a healthy self-respect for Caucasian heritage.
In all ways, the Hostfest celebration was an agreeable event.