Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hostfest 2009: Opening Day

The first day of Høstfest is always exciting for me because there's this charge in the air. All the attendees have a spring in their step and all the booth workers are still fresh-faced and full of enthusiasm. In my opinion its the best day of the whole festival. To prove that, I was already out there for a couple hourse this morning, even though I wasn't scheduled until 5 p.m.

I'm glad I went, too, because it gave me a chance to see some of my favorite folks who I only get to see once or twice a year. I think a lot of people who come to Minot every year have the same experience--they get to meet up with friends who live far, far away and spend a week reaffirming their friendships and strengthening connections. This is important, I think, because it helps to reinforce connections with heritage and culture. It also provides a soapbox from which people can yell at the top of their lungs "I'm Norwegian and I love it!"

I think the reason this is such an interesting thing to me is because of my Gen X upbringing. My generation doesn't get worked up about much of anything, so seeing 60,000 people getting all jazzed about their heritage is a real wonder to me. I can't wait to go back this afternoon!

Later today and throughout the week, I'll be posting some photos, video and tweeting from the festival grounds (I got me hooked up with a press pass!). So, keep checking back here and at

Friday, September 25, 2009

3 days and counting

It's a gloomy, rainy day here in Minneapolis and I am finishing up on some office work before the weekend. November Viking page proofs? Check. Publishing contracts? Check. Blog post? Workin' on it. All things I have to get done before I can go home today.

Why's it so important to get it all done today?

Because I'll be busy all next week, basking in the glow of the Norwegian Mecca that is Norsk Høstfest! That's right, come Monday morning I get to shake the overcast city-scape and wing my way to sunny downtown Minot, North Dakota! I'm really excited about going because being at an event with that many people who really into their Norwegian heritage is an awesome thing to see and it really re-charges my batteries. I find it to be very refreshing.

But it's not all fun and games. We put a lot of work into our presence at the event--in fact, we've been prepping for the 2009 event since last November. Rarely is there a time of year when we aren't thinking about Norsk Høstfest. Whether we are planning, executing or holding wrap-up meetings, it's a year-round thing for us. But that, too, makes the event a lot of fun for us because we get to see our plans and efforts come to fruition.

This year is going to be cool because we are going to be blogging from the event, and sending tweets, too, to all of our readers from the event site. If you aren't following us on twitter yet, make sure you start because we will be making a number of announcements there. Also, it's the best place to go to find out about news flashes and announcements of new blog posts.

Ok, I'm off to finish a couple more things before heading out. Come on back this weekend and next week to learn about all the cool things happening at the 2009 Norsk Høstfest! And don't forget--members in attendance can get a 15% discount on the Norwegian Buffet at En To Tre!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Norwegian Invasion

And today from our resident Membership Coordinator and popular music critic, Nichole Neuman, we have a cool post on some great Norwegian musicians.

How lucky are we to live in a time where we can not only have access to touring musicians and be able to keep up to date with them via the internet, even when on a different continent? In case, you’re waiting for the answer with bated breath, the answer is very.

Two fantastic Norwegian acts are currently touring throughout the United States and Canada and, if you’re lucky, coming to a town near you! Datarock, an electro rock band, claims roots in Bergen and Oslo. You can check their tour dates and listen to their music here.

Then there's Sondre Lerche, a darling within the college music scene, well-known for his singer-songwriter style and very blue eyes, who is also visiting many a city. More information than you might ever need (including touring dates) is available at his website.

Having seen both in the past, I can recommend them heartily. It’s a fun and dynamic experience and just another way to connect to Norwegian culture. Don’t forget to leave a comment if you go!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Norwegianity is Everywhere!

Greetings everyone! Today we have a cool post from our Membership Coordinator, Nichole, about "norwegianity" in the community. Enjoy!

I was at breakfast the other day with friends when I noticed a defacement of the booth that seemed a little familiar. Indeed, I was quite surprised to notice the definitely familiar and Norwegian name: Kjell Barne! Why, I know him…sort of. Some of you may recall the well-received 2001 Norwegian comedy from Petter Næss that centers around Elling, a man with a few quirks and his roommate Kjell Barne and their struggle to live normal lives. This sudden homage to a beloved Norwegian film character brought a smile to my face. What made this even better? Spotting the words “Eg elska Hrafn.” Thanks to the Norwegian national anthem, I was able to spot, recognize and translate these words.

So, what’s the point of this rambling about Norwegian references drawn onto a chair? It was in a Cuban restaurant in South Minneapolis. The idea that amongst all that graffiti, someone had taken a moment to share their Norwegian-ness made me think that there are small ways we can connect with others and share our Norwegian pride on a daily basis. From wearing a Norwegian sweater when it’s chilly to that little flag sticker on your car, sharing your pride in your heritage can be small and connect you to strangers (and potential friends) wherever you go.

And here’s a membership tip: talking about your Norwegianity is a great opening to talk about the benefits of Sons of Norway and to welcome new members to our fantastic organization.

Even better for members? If you haven’t seen Elling, we have it in our Sons of Norway media lending library? Call to reserve your copy today!

Do you have any good examples of random encounters with Norwegianity? Go to Facebook, join our group and add your own photos!

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Does Your Lodge Do for Retention?

Today we have a new post from Nichole, our Membership Coordinator. Enjoy!

We take a little break today from our regular news of Norway (and Sons of Norway) to address an important topic within the organization: member retention. With the recent issue of the September Viking and the Fall Recruitment Blitz campaign, Fall of 2009 is turning into All Things Membership. Of course, as Membership Coordinator, I think a renewed focus and energy on that topic can only encourage and revitalize our organization.

To address the above question, I’ve provided a few ideas on member retention. Please post what does work for your lodge here in the comments section. Even better, take those comments to the members section of the website and check out the message boards. This area will serve as a sounding board for new program ideas and a way to champion your own lodge success directly to other members.

Member Satisfaction
Are your members happy with the direction of the lodge? You only know if you ask them. Consider doing a survey or a separate townhall meeting to address the lodge’s present and future. Adaptable surveys are available at

Welcoming New Members
What is the very first interaction potential and new members have with your lodge? Does someone greet them and make sure they have a buddy throughout the first few meetings? First impressions create lasting ones, so make sure your lodge puts its best foot forward. Consider forming a lodge welcoming committee, or send out new member packets. Do call members as soon as they join to welcome them and inform them about upcoming events.

Keep Members Engaged
It is important that your lodge conveys just how important members are. Make sure they’re engaged, feel comfortable and are up to speed on all the Norwegian-ness for which they’ve just signed up! Extend volunteer opportunities, introduce them to members who may have been absent and make sure they on email and newsletter lists so they can attend all the events. Haven’t heard from a member for awhile? Give ‘em a ring. They’ll be glad to hear from you!

Don’t forget to check the message boards and even this blog for updates on membership ideas.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Search for Amundsen Continues

Much in the same way that Americans get swept up in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Amelia Erhart, so too do Norwegians when the topic turns to Roald Amundsen.

Amundsen, best known for his polar expeditions, racked up an unprecedented list of firsts as an explorer. He led the first Antarctic expedition to reach the South Pole between 1910 and 1912. He was also the first person to reach both the North Pole and is known as the first to traverse the Northwest Passage.

Then in June of 1928, while flying a rescue mission, Amundsen and his crew of five disappeared somewhere over the Barents Sea. The rescue mission was for the crew of the airship, Italia, who had crashed on their own polar expedition.

The disappearance was major news at the time, not just in Norway but around the world. Amundsen, the man who braved uncharted territories as a pastime, seemed to have vanished into thin air. For months the Norwegian navy searched and searched for their national hero, but to no avail. In the end, the search was called off in September of 1928, having found nothing more than a wing-float and bottom gasoline tank from Amundesn's plane near the Tromsø coast.

Now, 81 years later, the search is back on and is garnering a lot of attention in Norway. Right now, as I type this, Norwegian naval vessels are searching a new location in the Barents Sea. For the past 10 days two vessels have been scouring 36 square nautical miles of seabed close to the island of Bjørnøya in a bid to locate the remains of Amundsen’s seaplane.

This new expedition has the opportunity to put to rest the various theories and postulations on how the plane crashed and why. Finally, a nation may be able to lay one of its greatest heroes to rest. I'll try and find more info on their search results and post them as I can.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sons of Norway International President Meets with King Harald V

I don't know if many of you know this, but our esteemed International President Dan Rude is in Norway right now meeting with lodges and, in a little more than a week, helping Eidsvold lodge celebrate its anniversary. As if that weren't cool enough, I just found out that he had an audience with King Harald V!

I caught up with Dan this morning (his afternoon) and asked him a bit about his trip so far. Here's what he had to say:

The visit with the King was amazing! First of all we were picked up at the hotel by Haldor Strand in a Cadillac Fleetwood Limo. This was a very special honor for us, not just because it was a limo, but also because it once belonged to and was driven by King Olav.

We drove up to the palace and were met by one of the secretaries who took us up to the waiting room just outside of King Harald's office. There we were met by another gentleman and at exactly 12:00 noon a chime sounded and the secretary knocked on the King's office door and announced us. We entered and were greeted by the king!!! He asked us to sit down at a table and he settled himself across from us. We talked about a number of things, including:
  • Our travel plans both for Sons of Norway and to meet with friends
  • the royal family's involvement with social issues
  • Princess Marta Louise's book "Why Kings Do Not Wear Crowns"
  • Norway's role on the national scene concerning peace
Because of the importance of education in Norway he even asked about my teaching career.

Then, after meeting with the King we had lunch with Fred Bjerke, who had arranged the audience with the kind in the first place and Haldor Strand.

The next day after getting lost in Oslo we drove down to Kristiansand to visit a family who use to live in Missoula. In the evening we attended a meeting at Bernt Balchen 8-003. The lodge members appreciated our visit and also had two very interesting programs. One was presented by Arnfinn Torjesen who is a retired Seaman's Church pastor. He talked about his live in Texas and New Orleans as a Norwegain Seaman's Church pastor. The other presentation was made by Bjarne Ugland who is a former Deputy Mayor of Kristiansand. He spoke on the Tall Ship Races that are being hosted by the city of Kristiansand in 2010.

After Porgrunn we are going to Voss to meet with two families. The wives in both families were students at the University of Montana and we were like host families for them while they were there. After a few days there we will go to Hamar and then Tønsberg to visit lodges. The weekend will be spent at Eidsvoll 8-009, celebrating their 25 annniversary. As I understand it that there are over 100 people planning to attend the celebration.

Sounds to me like Dan is having a great trip and is playing his role as a Sons of Norway ambassador perfectly! If I get any more info I will be sure to let you know!