Saturday, June 27, 2009

Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival

So far we've had a great time at the Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival. Yesterday was the first day of the event and there was a lot going on. The morning started with a welcome ceremony where various dignitaries and sponsors gave messages of congratulations and, of course, welcome. On hand were some folks from the local media, the honorary Finnish counsel and yours truly.

It was a fun experience standing in front of a packed room, welcoming everyone and discussing how the goals of the festival and Sons of Norway were very much in sync. "The Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival is committed to the celebration of all Scandinavian cultures and the preservation of their unique traditions, but at the same time the festival builds a bridge that spans the differences between the cultures. This event connects us by our common experiences and strengthens our shared Nordic pride." Just as the Sons of Norway's mission is to celebrate our relationship with other Nordic countries, so too is it the mission of the Scandinavian Hjemkomst festival.

After that, it was back to booth, where I talked with a lot of different people from all over the U.S. It was very cool to meet folks from as far as California and Florida who had made the trip north just for the festival.

Then, today it was more time at the booth meeting with current and prospective members. Each had their own story about how much they were into their Norwegian heritage and culture. Even District 1 President, Bob Hoover, stopped by for a bit to say hello and to help recruit some new members. Good times had by all.

Oh, and as if that weren't enough, our booth backs up against the IcelandAir booth, which was staffed by some corporate folks and Linda from Borton Overseas. So even during the slow times, it's been nice to have good people like them around to chat with and discuss ideas for the future.

Well, it's late and I have the early shift tomorrow at the booth. I'll write more tomorrow or Monday to wrap up the festival.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Subscribe Today!

If you haven't seen it already, I've added a couple new tools to the blog that will make it even handier for those of us on the go. Starting today you can now sign up to receiving the Sons of Norway blog by e-mail! It's a great option if you're traveling or don't have a lot of time for web surfing.

In addition, I've also added a way for those of you with RSS readers to subscribe to the Sons of Norway blog RSS Feed! Get the latest info from Sons of Norway delivered to you along with all your news and important updates!

If you're interested in either of these options, they are both available in the right hand column of the blog. Just scroll down a bit until you see "Subscribe to the Sons of Norway Blog" for the RSS feed. Then click the link and follow the super-simple instructions.

Or, for the e-mail option (which is one of my favorites), scroll down to where it says "subscribe via e-mail." Once there, just fill in your e-mail address and you'll be all set.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Impressions of John

Today we've got a post from Nichole, our membership coordinator, wherein she thinks back on her warm memories of our retiring CEO, John Lund.

I don’t recall the first time I met John Lund. No doubt, it had something to do with the obligatory march around the office we all take at HQ upon starting. I do remember my first impressions, though – a formidable man, somber and a little intimidating. Turns out, however, that I was quite wrong. I’m sad to be wishing my favorite Sons of Norway employee farewell.

I wanted to share a few of my impressions of John, and encourage fellow members and readers to do the same. With his long years of service as CEO and general counsel and countless visits to lodges across this organization, I’m sure that many of us have a great anecdote to share.

John has a candy dish outside his office that he graciously fills with all manner of sugary items, and many of us can be seen sneaking away from our desks to take a break, beelining straight for that dish. My trips, frequent and daily, afforded me the opportunity to take in chats with John, sometimes laughing at a cartoon in the New Yorker, or not seeing eye-to-eye on some daily news event. What these conversations revealed is the respect he shows his employees. Whether arguing about pop culture as he listens to one of his special mix CDs (to Liz’s pleasure, often at top volume, replete with sing-a-long), or politics, John has always listened to what I’ve had to say without chastising a stance. I admire that quality and think that’s why he’s been a pleasure to work for. He’s gone to bat for me on a professional level many times, and knowing that he unwaveringly supports his employees has given me a level of confidence in my job I didn’t know I could have.

Thank you, John, for all that you’ve done for us. I wish you well….and hope you’ll often stop by to replace the candy that Eivind sets out for us.

And, finally, a top five (of sorts) of John:
- The socks. So colourful, striped, checked or plaid.
- He and Eivind dressing up one Halloween as a giant, hot pink gorilla and a
- Showing us how he’d bash in the heads of would-be muggers with his cane,
with panache.
- The videos he emails, always providing a bit of wit and whimsy.
- His claims, whilst volunteering for the Draxten Lodge food booth, about the heritage of
vikings on a Stick. Did you know that’s what initially drew the vikings to America?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sons of Norway CEO John Lund Announces His Retirment

Monday was a sad day for all of us on the Sons of Norway HQ staff. During a monthly all-staff meeting, John Lund announced his retirement from the position of CEO after nine and a half years. The announcement came as quite a shock to everyone at Headquarters and I imagine it was a surprise for our board of directors as well.

In an e-mail that went out yesterday from International President Dan Rude it was stated:

It is with a great deal of regret that I must inform you that John Lund had decided to retire. We have indeed been extremely fortunate to have John as our CEO for the past 9 years and before that as Legal Counsel. His leadership skills, his people skills, his wealth of knowledge about Sons of Norway and the Norwegian Community, and his great sense of humor will be missed by us all. We retired folks welcome him to our ranks and know he will enjoy retirement as much as we do! John's last day in the office will be July 31, 2009.

President Rude has appointed Fraternal Director Eivind Heiberg as the Interim CEO in accordance with the succession plan that was updated during the recent board meeting this past April. President Rude is also appointing a search committee to begin reviewing candidates for a new CEO.

The last couple of days have been full of of mixed feelings for me. I spent all day yesterday vacillating between being ecstatic about Eivind being appointed Interim CEO (because he’s got a lot of great ideas and is a wonderful guy to work for), and feeling a great sense of loss over John’s departure. I’ve been with Sons of Norway for almost 9 years myself and John has been one of the few constants during my tenure. It’s a difficult thing saying goodbye to that.

I'd like to add to President Rude's comments by saying that John has been a leader and a role model for so many of us at Sons of Norway. His tireless efforts have made Sons of Norway a stronger, better organization for everyone. His constant leadership through good times and bad have been a beacon of stability. But above all, John has been the best role model I ever could have hoped for.

The lessons I've learned from John are legion. Watching John over the years I've learned that it's best to lead by example; to be honest, modest and decisive; to be open to different voices and new experiences because you never know what might learn from them. Above all, I've learned that change can be a good thing; change is life; change is what makes each new day new, and worth getting up for.

That being so, please join me in celebration of all John’s accomplishments and contributions to Sons of Norway, and in wishing him well in his retirement! We’re all going to miss the heck out of him!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Remember how I was talking about the cool stuff planned for the upcoming Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival? Well, I've got an update with more info about what's going to be going on.

As part of the festival's “Nordic Spirit Rocks!” theme, the teenage band KEHO, from Finland, “ROCKS” and will be in Fargo-Moorhead for a week holding workshops, working with Trollwood students and participating in the Festival. Along with new music styles, there’ll be the traditional Finnish sounds of Kanteleen Soittajat kantele group and Järvenpää Singers; the sweet vocals from Saana Ensemble and the danceable music of Finn Hall Band. Kisaret Finnish Folk Dancers will make your toes want to dance and the Sumolainen Sisters (the Finnish version of Those Lutheran Ladies) will laugh you “off of your rocker”.

Lively Danish folk music will make you hop with Denmark’s fiddle-accordion duo Jensen & Bugge. Icelandic-Canadian multi-media performance artist Freya Olafson will intrigue you with her interpretation of the life of her ancestors. Arna Rennan will sing sweet ancient and traditional Norwegian songs of the past. Swedish fiddle tunes by a group of the American Swedish Institute’s Spelmanslag will make your heart sing. The ancient sounds of Saami Yoik music will be shared by Nathan Muus and the Saami Siida Camp will feature the Lake Crystal Reindeer, Saami lavvu (tents) and displays.

If that weren't enough, Beatrice Ojakangas, author of many amazing Scandinavian and other cookbooks including Scandinavian Feasts, will whet the appetites of attendees by sharing genuine recipes during the Cooking School and be the guest chef for a dinner at HoDo Restaurant during Nordic Nightlife in Downtown Friday night. Musicians will also be featured in downtown establishments during Nordic Nightlife Take the Traditions Tour and fill up your passport with stamps as you explore the Nordic cultures.

I'm pretty stoked about this event! Any readers out there who are planning on coming to the festival should stop by one the Sons of Norway booths and say hi!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Norwegian Football

Today we have a post from Colin, Sons of Norway's Cultural Advisor, on Norway's run for the WC (pun intended as either interpretation may be applicable) and some info on Norwegian football.

Last week we blogged about Norway’s national soccer team and their bid to qualify for next year’s World Cup in South Africa. Sadly, with a draw against Macedonia and a loss to the Netherlands, Norway’s chances of making it into the tournament are looking dim.

No one seriously expected Norway to beat the Dutch team – which is consistently ranked as one of the best teams in the world – but the scoreless tie to tiny Macedonia was a major disappointment. You can read analysis of the Macedonia match here and the Dutch game here. The Norwegians will have to win against the tough Scottish team in August and the feisty Icelandic squad in September to keep their World Cup dreams alive.

For some sunnier news then, we’ll turn to Norwegian professional soccer.

Norway’s top-level soccer league, formally called Eliteserien but also known as Tippeligaen, consists of 16 teams from around the country. Over the course of the season, which lasts from spring to autumn, the teams each play each other twice, once at home and once away. As with most soccer leagues, league standing is determined by a point system, where a win is worth three points, a draw is worth one, and a loss is worth zero. At the end of the season, the team with the most points is the winner – which is to say that there isn’t really a post-season or playoff tournament to decide the league champion.

Another major difference between North American professional sports and Norwegian professional soccer is the system of promotion and relegation, common to soccer leagues around the world. At the end of the season, the bottom two teams in the league are kicked out and sent down – relegated - to the next-lowest division, while the top two teams in the lower division are moved up – promoted – to the top league. There are several divisions included in the system, which means that in theory, over the course of years a wealthy team can be relegated to a semi-pro division, while a local amateur team can turn itself into a professional powerhouse. In practice, a small handful of teams have tended to dominate the top league, but it does happen frequently that teams from small towns do well at the top level. A case in point would be Molde FK, hailing from the small city in Møre og Romsdal, which began its current spell in the top league only two years ago and is currently ranked #2, beating out far wealthier teams from Oslo and Bergen.

Here’s a list of the current top-level teams and where they come from:

Tromsø IL: Tromsø
Bodø/Glimt: Bodø
Molde FK: Molde
Aalesunds FK: Ålesund
SK Brann: Bergen
Viking FK: Stavanger
IK Start: Kristiansand
Strømsgodset IF: Drammen
Stabæk Fotball: Bekkestua (Bærum)
Lillestrøm SK: Lillestrøm
Vålerenga: Oslo
Lyn: Oslo
Fredrikstad FK: Fredrikstad
Sandefjord: Sandefjord
Odd Grenland: Skien

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Got Scandi-Folk?

For those in the Midwest Region this weekend, specifically the Brainerd Lakes region, consider getting in a healthy dose of Scandinaviannocity at the Nisswa-Stämman Scandinavian Folk Music Festival.

Now in its tenth year, the Nisswa-Stämman offers visitors two days of music, dancing and Scandinavian culture. With three stages, a “dance barn” and a children’s area, there’s plenty for the Sons of Norway family to enjoy.

Check out the Nisswa-Stämmen site for more details on the Friday night and Saturday events! Rumour has it there may even be an appearance of the Åke UFO! Organizers beg visitors to remember one thing for this festival, though: to bring your own lawn chairs! Seating is, apparently, scarce.

Russ (Rhymes with Moose), or You Thought Senior Prank Day Was Bad?

We've got a really interesting article today from Nichole about the yearly Norwegian happening, called Russ. Enjoy!

As schools across the US begin to wind down, we thought it might be an apt time to expose our members to an interesting Norwegian end of schooling tradition…

Right about now, you’ll see stories on Aftenposten, detailing the fall out from the annual Russ celebrations.
Q: What is this Russ celebration?
A: One of Norway’s most confusing (IMO) and entertaining pastimes.

This annual tradition (russfeiring or russ celebration) surrounds the graduation of students from secondary school, who are preparing to enter university. The most striking visual component to this celebration is the red (for school of arts) and blue (for economics) coveralls that the graduates wear. Tradition dictates they wear these for over two weeks at the beginning of May.

While the donning of the coveralls marks an important rite of passage for these young adults, it can often mean mayhem for the communities of the graduates. These youngsters receive knots, which dangle from their russ caps, that connote the completion of different outlandish tasks (examples can be found in the articles).

In recent years, Russ have spent thousands of dollars outfitting party busses and pulling elaborate pranks. Communities, which would otherwise condemn their loud and constant partying seem, for the most part, to accept the weeks as an earned tradition for the students.

Next time you see Fraternal Director Eivind Heiberg, ask him about his experiences with as a Russ. Most certainly, he’ll have a yarn or two to share…

Russ in pictures:
(search hard and you can even find a picture of young HRH Crown Prince Haakon!)

*Some of this information was obtained from Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Elizabeth Su-Dale.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival: It's almost that time of year again!

It's almost that time of year again when Nordic folk from around the Midwest will be come together and celebrate their shared heritage at the 32nd Annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival, being held from June 26-28 at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

It's always been a fun event for me, partly because the the variety that the festival is known for. Not only do vendors and entertainers change from year-to-year, so does the national focus. This year, for example, Hjemkomst is bringing some great programs highlighting Finnish culture and traditions.

I know, I know, you're probably asking yourself why the Sons of NORWAY blog is participating in an event that's focusing on Finnland, right? The answer is simple: our mission, beyong preserving Norwegian heritage and culture, is to celebrate our relationship with other Nordic countries. We all have a shared heritage and a shared pride in where we/our ancestors came from and Hjemkomst is a great event that focuses on that fact.

This year will be no different in that Hjemkomst is bringing in a lot of great traditional and modern programming and music. Think about the rocks of Scandinavia’s geology, steamy sauna rocks, stories told by grandparents in the heirloom rocking chair and electrified traditional Nordic instruments that rock! Deeply rooted Nordic arts and traditions along with the modern Scandinavian cultures will be showcased.

A variety of Scandinavian music genres from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Saamiland will provide something for everyone at the Festival. One can hear the ancient sounds of the drum and Saami Yoik, to the traditional and electrified Finnish Kantele; as well as fiddles, accordions, and songs by one voice to a full chorus.

It's going to be a really exciting event and Sons of Norway is proud to be a Festival Sponsor of this year's festival. We're all over the place at this year's event--Kringen lodge will have a booth on level 1, the Heritage Stage/Sons of Norway stage are on level 2 and Sons of Norway International will have a booth on level 3. Be sure to stop at one of our locations and say hello!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lodges in the News

As you may remember, I posted about a lodge discovering a time capsule beneath one of its old lodge buildings There's a nice article online about the District 2 lodge that opened it up this past Saturday. According to the article, "Doug Dixon, a member of the Sons of Norway, Leif Erikson Lodge, with good-natured groans hammered at the box with a chisel, the lid gave way revealing Dec. 29, 1950, copies of what was then known as The Seattle Daily Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Washington Posten Norwegian newspaper; newsletters from Valkyrien Lodge Daughters of Norway; and documents related to the founding of the Leif Erikson Lodge, the Norwegian Men's Chorus and others."

Pretty cool stuff. I'd be interested to hear what kinds of lodge documents they found.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

World Cup Soccer: Norway's eye is on the prize

With today’s World Cup qualifying match it seems like a good time to blog about Norway’s national pastime, soccer.

As in most of Europe – or most of the rest of the world beyond the States for that matter – soccer is hugely popular in Norway. Not only is the sport popular among children and teenagers, it’s also by far the biggest spectator sport, with dozens of teams throughout the country playing in several professional and semi-pro divisions. The top league, known in Norwegian as Tippeligaen or Eliteserien, is to Norway what the NFL is to America. The country also boasts national squads (men’s, women’s, and youth teams) that compete around the world.

The men’s national team
will square off today against Macedonia in a World Cup qualifier, one of several that the team will play before next year’s tournament in South Africa. Currently Norway is ranked 47th out of about 200 national teams, sandwiched between South Korea and Gabon. Only 32 teams will enter the final competition, so Norway needs to do well against Macedonia – and the far more challenging Dutch team which they’ll play next Wednesday – in order to advance.

Things have been looking up for the Norwegian national team in the last few months ever since the return of coach Egil “Drillo” Olsen, who replaced Åge Hareide after a winless 2008 run. Drillo is an iconic figure in Norwegian football and his style of play – emphasizing long passes and fast breaks over more strategic attacks – is extremely controversial. And effective: when Drillo coached the team from 1990 to 1998, he took the team to two World Cups and the European Cup as well. So far this year, Drillo has led the Norwegians to victories against Germany and Finland.

Unfortunately if you live outside of Norway it’s very difficult to watch the matches. Sometimes you can watch the matches online, but you usually have to pay for the privilege, and some international matches aren’t included due to licensing restrictions. If you understand Norwegian you can listen to the games on NRK via net radio, but for some bizarre reason the action is periodically interrupted for commercials and bad music. Fox Soccer Channel has pretty good coverage of the World Cup qualifying rounds (including free video highlights) and you might even catch some Norway games on ESPN 360, especially as we get closer to the World Cup. Sometimes we are reduced to reading the minute-by-minute text updates which you’ll find on the websites of most Norwegian newspapers, our favorite is Bergens Tidene.

Next week we’ll post the results of the games against Macedonia and the Netherlands, then some more information on the Norwegian professional leagues, so keep reading.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Norway's Opera moves into #1 spot

As of last month, Norway's Opera web browsing software overtook Apple's iPhone browser as the most popular mobile browser in the world.

A recent Reuter's report said that, according to web anayltics firm, StatCounter, Opera accounted for 24.6% of all internet pages that were downloaded to mobile devices globally in May. During the same time, Apple's iPhone browser accounted for 22.3%.

This is great news for a web browser application that has tried for years to gain traction in the U.S. market, but with little success. It has, however received recent attention for its growth in other locations, like Poland and Indonesia.