Monday, June 23, 2008

Velkommen til Norseland

The Norwegian and American flags flying at the Norseland Lutheran Church

In 1858, a group of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants homesteaded an area of the Minnesota River Valley "where the big woods meets the prairie," as they say. They called it Norseland.

Yours truly in Norseland

Norseland is barely a dot on the map which today consists of a feed store, a co-op, and two churches, Norseland Lutheran and Scandian Grove Lutheran (both separated by perhaps a mile and a half). The old expression, "if you blink, you will miss it," rings true.

This past weekend I had the privilege to attend and participate in the Norseland Sesquicentennial where I got to learn what Norseland truly was and is.

The celebration has been a couple of years in the making, and this weekend it came to fruition. I met my entire family down there for the festivities.

The historic Norseland General Store

The sesquicentennial was a true celebration of local history. The Norseland General Store (which closed for good two years ago) was open for tours and had several exhibits, including soldier greeting cards from WWI, and also an American flag that had only 48 stars.

An antique Farmall tractor on display at the welcome center

The Anthony Feed Service building served as a welcome center for the whole event, and there were a number of historical displays and photographs from the early days, and also some souvenirs for sale. I bought myself a church cookbook from Scandian Grove, and I found some pictures in the displays of my grandfather with his 4H softball team, as well as a photo of great great grandfather, one of the original settlers in this area.

I love a parade!

Our family even participated in the parade! My uncle has several Percheron horses, so we all rode in a wagon being pulled by two of these black beauties.

We were not alone, either. It is hard to imagine, but for this event in the tiny village of Norseland there were nearly 80 entries in the parade. Horse-drawn buggies, covered wagons, antique tractors, fire trucks, classic cars, combines, and a a few different bands; the turnout was incredible. They had to shut down a state highway for a couple of hours to make it happen.

The parade lining up at the start. We know how to shut down a road here in Minnesota! :)

The parade was an absolute blast! It was so much fun to ride on a wagon being pulled by giant horses, waving to family, friends, and complete strangers alike. How can you not enjoy something like this?

The parade leaving town

Following the parade, everyone headed over the the park on the Scandian Grove church grounds for a good old fashioned cookout. Grilled pork chop sandwiches for dinner, and I'm talking 1 inch thick boneless loin chops (knowing me, I'm sure you will be in absolute shock to learn that I didn't take a picture of it!). Wow, was it good. And this town that is barely a dot on the map served nearly a thousand people!

The cookout was accompanied by plently of music and displays of local talent. The Lt. Governor of Minnesota was even on hand to read a proclamation from the Governor's Office declaring June 21, 2008, "Community of Norseland" day. We sat, listened, talked, and caught up with relatives and old friends.

In the episode of Anthony Bourdain's TV show, No Reservations, where he visited Korea, he concluded the show by saying (from my best recollection), "The best times are when it is impossible to be cynical." The Norseland Sesquicentennial was just that; It is the kind of place where people break bread together, where farmers reminisce about "fence line conversations" while out in the field. It is the kind of place where the St. Peter High School Marching Band (young kids, giving up a Saturday afternoon in the summer) offered to play in the parade for nothing more than the promise of a root beer float afterwards. It is the kind of place where history is important, where those who came before us are honored and appreciated. It is a community, and a caring one at that.

My hat is off to the Norseland 150 Committee for putting on such a memorable show. I won't soon forget this past weekend!

Until next time,

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