The task is easy to understand, but accomplishing it is another thing all together. But since I get paid to give it a go, I’ll try once again. However, if you sense what’s coming and you just can’t stomach another of these columns, turn the page now … quickly … and get on with your life. I won’t blame you a bit.
This weekend marks the 48th annual Nordic Fest. For those of you who live in a cave with trolls, the Nordic Fest is Decorah’s celebration of its Scandinavian heritage … more specifically, its close ties with Norway.
Since 1986, my assignment at this time of year has been clear: Write another clever column welcoming people to the Fest and all it has to offer, but do it in way that’s original, creative and holds the readers’ attention.
That seems simple enough, right? Perhaps simple isn’t the correct terminology, because there’s really nothing simple about it – not by a long shot. While I consider myself somewhat creative as a writer – maybe off-the-wall would be more accurate – trying to come up with a completely fresh idea for a Nordic Fest article has kept me awake the past several nights. To put it in straightforward terms, after nearly 30 years of trying, I’m just not sure I have another one in me.
Sadly, I know that’s an admission of defeat, but since I’m anything but a quitter, I’ll strap on my thinking cap and give it another effort. After all, it’s my job and I refuse to shun my duty. So I’ll trot out my annual Fest column before the first piece of lefse is consumed. Again … turn the page before it’s too late. This is your final warning.
Throughout the past three decades, I’ve written about the Nordic Fest from just about every angle imaginable. I’ve “interviewed” Norwegian Gods and trolls of various shapes and size. I’ve implored visitors to sample all the amazing fare available during the Fest – especially the varme polse (I’ve eaten hundreds). I’ve described the endless array of cultural offerings, from woodcarving, rug hooking and rosemaling at the famous Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, to an old Norwegian blacksmith doing his thing in front of amazed onlookers.
I’ve encouraged visitors to attend the bunad show. I’ve invited thousands of tourists to enjoy the incredible diversity of musical offerings along Water Street that entertain pretty much non-stop throughout the Fest … for free. I’ve written about purchasing Scandinavian souvenirs, how to properly prepare your lefse, the exciting Nordic Fest parade and the wonderful Norwegian-style dinners and lunches served by the various churches and organizations that are the backbone of our community.
I’ve expounded on and given credit to the countless volunteers who help make the Fest come to life. I’ve marveled about the charming quaintness of the opening ceremonies and the unique Nordic Dancers who perform to the delight of everyone – from long-time Fest-goers to first-timers. And don’t forget those spectacular fireworks after the popular street dance on Saturday night.
In other words, I’ve put into words just about every aspect of the Fest known to man and woman, and I’m sure I’ve even repeated a few ad nauseam. Forgive me.
So with those thoughts in mind, I’m going to keep this Fest column straight forward and to the point. People who have never been to Decorah and the Fest before need to understand and appreciate the essence of what we offer: good, clean fun for the entire family. There’s literally something for everyone to enjoy, and if you don’t agree, then perhaps you should reconsider your frame of mind. There are no stinkin’ thinkers allowed here at Nordic Fest time, so don’t even go there.
As for me, after consuming my obligatory “first varme polse,” I’ll be doing my usual “Nordic Fest Shuffle” up and down Water Street – stopping along the way to sample the Norwegian meatballs, a milkshake from the Moo Mobile (love that name), a piece of lefse or six and perhaps a pork chop on a stick or a bratwurst smothered in sauerkraut. Nordic Fest is not the time to diet.
I’ll also be chatting with old friends I haven’t seen in years and making new friends who want to know what it’s like to live in this wonderful corner of America. So many times I’ve heard folks say they just love Decorah and Winneshiek County and would give anything to relocate here. I tell them we – the residents – feel blessed to call this place home. And my big smile is proof enough.
During the three days of the Fest, it’s important to remember that all of us are Norwegian for those special 72 hours. Even this old, craggily Greek from the north side of Chicago.
There is a way to officially become a Norwegian if you so desire, however. After some long negotiations with the Norwegian Consulate in Washington, D.C., they have given me permission to declare anyone who stops in our office and purchases a subscription to Decorah Newspapers an “official Norwegian.” So this is your chance, friends, don’t blow it.
Velkommen. Come back soon.