Nordic Fest organizers are buzzing behind the scenes for the annual celebration of all things Scandinavian – Nordic Fest at Decorah.
The theme for Nordic Fest 2022 (July 28-30) is “All Directions Point Norse”.
The Fest, which began in 1967, promises something for all ages with festive food, arts and crafts, lively entertainment, sporting events, a colorful parade, dancing, fireworks And much more.
Events begin with opening ceremonies at 6:45 p.m. Thursday night outside the Winneshiek County Courthouse. The Nordic Fest Board of Directors will be on hand to present the winners of this year’s Nordic Fest; Martha Grisheimer, Skal recipient, and 2022 Fest Grand Marshals, Winneshiek County healthcare professionals. The evening will also include the traditional procession of the flag and the Bunad (Scandinavian costume) and performances by the Luren singers and Nordic Decorah dancers.
The Fest continues with daily entertainment offerings at multiple locations – the downtown Water Street areas, the Winneshiek County Courthouse, the green spaces near Decorah Middle School and John Cline School and at the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum and Heritage Park.
The courthouse will be highlighted during the three days of the festival by multiple performances by Nordic dancers from Decorah. The Luren Singers will take the stage outside the courthouse on Friday and Saturday. Decorah’s footnotes will have dancers enjoying waltzes and polkas outside the courthouse on Friday night.
Decorah’s downtown Water Street site will feature three canopy-designated performance stages. Evening concerts are planned. The designated downtown location will also feature a wide variety of Scandinavian food stalls, rock painting opportunities, children’s tent activities, troll cart (Pokey Pete) rides, balloon art, the grand parade on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., the traditional Bunad show at Hotel Winneshiek and the grand finale – the fireworks display on Saturday evening around 10 p.m.
Sporting events this year include Friday
Kanolopet Canoe Race on the Upper Iowa River, from Pulpit Rock Campground; sack and grass volleyball tournament on Friday and Saturday at Decorah Middle School Field; and Saturday events only: Early Morning Evelopet 5K Run/Walk and 15K Run (online registration only at nordicfest.com) from Decorah Town Hall, Nordic Rock Throw in the after- noon behind John Cline Elementary School near the tennis courts, and the popular Lutefisk Eating Contest in Courthouse Square after the parade.
The Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum will present several events this year during the Fest, including folk art and living heritage demonstrations, mini-concerts, a musical jam, an Oneota Film Festival showing “A Brush with Life – The Art of Being”, Rochester Flute Chorale, Oneota Weavers and Spinners Guild sales shop, photo ops with Nils the Giant Nisse, the always entertaining Skjaldborg Viking Encampment at Vesterheim Heritage Park, and more.
Nordic Fest President Brian Solberg noted that this year’s Fest will mark the return of the popular Fest Arts and Crafts Center. A flagship event of the Fest since 1974, the center will be teeming with activities with artisans from all over the region. This year’s Arts and Crafts Center location is new to festival-goers and is being set up in VFW Post Building #1977 at 104 State Street in the downtown business district. Hours are Friday and Saturday of the Fest from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Decorah’s Town and Country Garden Club will also be hosting tours of the area on the Friday and Saturday of Fest.
Fest programs and buttons
It would be difficult for a festival goer to attend all events without taking a copy of the official festival program. Full details, entertainment listings, food stall locations, performance times, maps and more are included in the official Fest 2022 schedule.
Official Fest buttons and programs are available for a nominal fee at the main information center at the Decorah Visitor Center at 307 West Water Street (open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on all three days of the Fest).
Each year’s Nordic Fest would not be possible without the volunteer efforts of the Nordic Fest Board members. Traditionally, the central committee meets almost immediately after the end of the Nordic Fest to start planning the next Fest again.
The Fest 2022 Board of Directors includes the following community volunteers (listed with their Fest responsibilities): Brian Solberg, President; Alyssa Ritter, Past President; Dallas Steffen, treasurer; Martha Griesheimer, secretary; Chris Hick and Linda Wolfs, arts and crafts; Andi Hemesath, sack tournament; Ariana Cervantes and Christopher Miculinich, Beverage Garden; Jessica Rilling, Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce; Jeni Holtan Grouws and Julie Simiele, animation; Steve Wilke, food; Katherine Whitsitt, children’s activities; Chris Hick, Luren Singers; Alyssa Ritter and Brittany Todd, marketing; Annie Halweg, Cory Courtney, Sarah Brandt and Sam Boeke, members; Samantha Spilde, merchandise; Amy Bruening and Jeni Holton-Grouws, Nordic dancers; Gabriel Eide, fashion show; Brian Solberg and Simon Cropp, physical management; Boys Wasson, Son of Norway; Adam Baker and Hans Larson, sporting events; Chivonne Marlow, Vesterheim; and Decorah Police Chief and City Liaison Officer Dave Smutzler.
History of the party
In the mid-1960s, local resident Helga Lund Algyer approached the Decorah Jaycees organization and shared an article about a non-profit, ad-free Scandinavian celebration held in Oregon. She inspired local volunteers to try to start a festival similar to Decorah. Decorah Jaycees Jerry Aulwes and the late Mike Dahly, Harry Olson, Darrell Pierce and Gary Svenson enlisted the help of Marion Nelson, then director of the Vesterheim Museum, and Phyllis Leseth of Decorah to complete the founding team of Nordic Fest. They were meant to celebrate Decorah’s community spirit and Scandinavian heritage. The first Nordic Fest took place in July 1967.
The next Fest dates are July 27-29, 2023; July 25-27, 2024; and July 24-26, 2025. For more information about Nordic Fest, visit the website at www.nordicfest.com.