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Archive for September, 2009

Every year the Chicago area Scandinavian community gathers at Vasa Park in South Elgin, Illinois. The event brings together organizations from the Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Icelandic communities to exchange cultural news, share artistic expressions and sing national songs. This years was the 30th anniversary of the event and one of the biggest I can remember. It is such a treat to have so many people with similar interests in the Scandinavian community gathering together for this all day event. The day opened with a flag ceremony and the signing of the National Anthems of each of the Scandinavian countries.

Vasa Park vendors under a canopy of oak trees

Vasa Park vendors under a canopy of oak trees

Several vendors from all over the Midwest and even from the East Coast displayed items for sale. Historical organizations from the Swedish and Norwegian community as well as North Park College had booths to display information about their activities. Some of my favorite booths include the Danish Bakery in Darien (I love the cardamom cake they bake), the Sons of Norway lodge booths and the hand made textiles booths. And of course we can’t forget about the Viking encampment put on by a group called Norsa.

Lorraine Straw at the Viking Ship Booth

The Viking Ship Booth, the ship is open for viewing Saturday September 19, 2009 1 – 4 PM.

Diane Hoven Handmade Hardanger from Diane's Stitches of Baldwin WI

Diane Hoven Handmade Hardanger from Diane's Stitches of Baldwin WI

Viking Encampment

Viking Encampment

Some of my friends at the Nordic Nook said sales were good, I know the number of vendors was up this year from prior years. We saw all kinds of t-shirts, doll bunads, rosemaled items, and lots of Nordic inspired things that you could use as gifts or in your own home. Food was a big item also. I enjoyed having a pølse wrapped in a piece of lefse as well as herring and a “sloppy uff-da”. A couple of us enjoyed a little “water of life” to help with our digestion. Throughout the day various groups entertained us from the park stage, including the Leikarringen “Heimhug” dancers.

The Leikarringen Heimhug Dancers

The Leikarringen Heimhug Dancers

This was a great event and if you missed it this year keep an eye out for announcements for next years event.

Ken Nordan
Contributing Editor

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After a long summer without fresh torsk (I did cook up some salt-cod this summer), the Chicago Torske Klub started it’s new season this past weekend.

Torsk is the Scandinavian word for cod.  In the case of the Torske Klub, the fish is flown in from Iceland as fresh whole fish and cut into “bone in” steaks.  The bone as well as the attached skin add additional flavor to the fish which is quickly poached in boiling (and very salty) water.  Because of the high salt content the water actually boils hotter than normal so the fish can cook very fast and not break apart.  The club meets at the Des Plaines, Illinois Elks club, at noon, on the 2nd Saturday of every month (except June, July and August) and always has a guest speaker and a lot of fun.  For more information go to their web site.

Greg Borzo explains a image from his book about the Chicago "L".

Greg Borzo discusses his book about the Chicago L

Why was this months meeting brought to you by the letter “L”?  Well, the guest speaker was Greg Borzo the author of the new book The Chicago “L”, illustrated with over 100 images of the “L” from it’s early days.  Greg gave the club attendees a 30 minute presentation of slides covering the history of mass transit in Chicago, including the days before the “L” was built.  For all you train buffs or anyone that enjoys Chicago history this was a great presentation.

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Gene Kaczmarek receives a letter of thank you from the Torske Klub Boss Rob Alsaker. Barney the cod fish looks on

After the presentation the Torske Klub announced the retirement of Gene Kaczmerek from his position as Treasurer of the club.  Gene served the club for many years and we all want to thank him for his service.

Ken Nordan,
Contributing Editor

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Nacc_logoThe Chicago chapter of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) had it’s first meeting of the new season last night at the Wellington Restaurant in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Members talked and discussed their various summer activities and trips over drinks and hot Hors D’oeuvres. The meeting got underway with the introduced of the new board members who will take office in January 2010 and several announcements.

The speaker for this meeting was Jeff Graber of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mr. Graber is a Senior International Trade Specialist in Chicago where he oversees the industry sectors of food processing and packaging equipment, agriculture equipment and building products. Prior to his work at the DoC he was the international sales manager for Cummings-Allison. While Jeff is not of Norwegian heritage he has strong ties to Norway and calls Norway his second home. As a Rotary Exchange Student he spent his junior year in Oslo Norway and attended the 1994 Olympics. He spoke fondly of his time in Norway and even make some of his introductions in Norwegian.

Jeff’s work at the U.S. Department of Commerce – U.S Commercial Service is to help U.S. businesses find success in exporting their goods and services to foreign markets. Jeff explained that with decreasing domestic demand and increasing international markets his department helps U.S. companies make connections outside the U.S. by providing service such as; market research, partner searches, creating exporter directories and business services listings, performing company and trade advocacy, organizing trade shows as well as generating news reports. Many of the services are free or are provided to the U.S. company for a small fee. Because of the departments work, small businesses that normally would not think of selling their products or services outside of the U.S. are given additional support and counseling so they can increase sales in these new markets.

Jeff likes to think of himself as a “facilitator” and as an individual that brings people together so they can build relationships. He reminded us that networking is the best way to build success in business. The services his organization provides gives small and large business a worldwide network with friends and contacts around the world. To get additional information about the U.S. Commercial Service go to the following web sites:

http://www.export.gov
http://www.buyusa.gov/illinois

Ken Nordan
Contributing Editor

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Look to Norway – a travelogue

This article was published in the Norwegian American Weekly, No. 29 – August 21. 2001.

I was excited as our plane ducked beneath the overcast skies at Værnes airport, east of Trondheim. I had not been there for over a decade, and now, years later, I was anxious to reacquaint myself with the city, and Stiklestad – the goal of our trip – which was made even more special as some years prior I had moved to the US. Funny how distance creates a more intimate appreciation for things like identity and heritage.

Nidarosdomen seen from the city square.

Nidarosdomen seen from the city square.

There are many places of historical significance in Norway. However, Stiklestad is in many ways the epicenter of Norwegian cultural history and religious life – centered around the fall of king Olaf Haraldsson in 1030, the alleged miracles after his death, and the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral, finished in 1300 AD, where his remains are said to be buried.

Nidarosdomen, among the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.

Nidarosdomen, among the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.

I have been to a few cathedrals, such as St. Peters Basilica in Rome, The Cathedral of Valencia, Spain, Notre Dame in Paris, and also the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City. Norwegians tend to believe that things must always be grander and more magnificent beyond our own borders, but the fact of the matter is, at least in this writer’s opinion, that the Nidaros Cathedral elegantly takes it’s place among the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. Also, something truly spiritual has been preserved within its walls, despite the constant rush of tourists coming from all over the world.

Stjørdal Station, a piece of old Norway. The station opened in 1902 and is one of the many wonderful things to see along the Trondheim-Verdal train route.

Stjørdal Station, a piece of old Norway. The station opened in 1902 and is one of the many wonderful things to see along the Trondheim-Verdal train route.

The train ride from Trondheim to Stiklestad is a great way to see a part of Norway that is mostly gone from the more urbanized areas of the country, offering scenic views of the Trondheim Fjord with Steinvikholm castle dating back to the 1520s and one of the final hiding places of the German battleship Tirpitz during World War 2. This last detail was pointed out to me by our very friendly train conductor Per Nygård.

Professor Torgrim Titlestad lectures to the audience at Stiklestad National Cultural Center

Professor Torgrim Titlestad lectures to the audience at Stiklestad National Cultural Center

At Stiklestad we launched our book The Great Saga of St. Olav with a lecture by Torgrim Titlestad, professor in history at the Stavanger University, about the historical validity of the Sagas. There is now a dawning consensus among many historians that these ancient documents may be regarded as credible sources to our early history. This is important because they help us understand why the democratic traditions are so strong in our culture, and why it is crucial that we strive to preserve them.

Spelet om Heilag Olav.

Spelet om Heilag Olav.


After the lecture we all went to see “Spelet om Heilag Olav”, a play written by Olav Gullvåg to commemorate the Battle of Stiklestad, and performed every year since 1954 at the end of July, and has throughout the years featured some of Norway´s most prominent actors, directors and conductors. After more than fifty years, the music is still vital, fresh and captivating, leading me to think about the great artists, composers and poets our country has produced.

I believe Norway has a unique history in the world. We must not forget this, few as we are. We must keep working to preserve our heritage so that it can serve as an example, and a force for good in troubled times. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, look to Norway!

Country romance.

Country romance.

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Our good friend Svein Ludvigsen and his brother-in-law Herulf came to vist the Norwegian community in Chicago this week. Svein represented the county of Troms in the Norwegian Parliament and was the Vice President of the Norwegian Lagting from 1997 to 2001, he was also the Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs and is currently the Governor of Troms.

Svein is a golf enthusiast and along with many of his friends here in Chicago (including Don Hoganson) spent several days out on the links perfecting his stroke. A few years ago Svein invited many of us to his home near Tromsø for a day of golf and several days of fun in his far northern community.

I’m not much of a golfer but I do enjoy history and in particular Norwegian and Viking history. Svein and Herulf have been the guests of Lowell and Helen Olberg and the Olbergs suggested that we meet Svein and Herulf at “The Viking”, a ship anchored in a park in Geneva, Illinois. This ship is open by appointment. For tour fees and information check here.

For those of you not familiar with this ship:

The Viking was built at Christen Christensen’s Framnes Shipyard in Sandefjord, Norway in 1892. It was copied after the ancient Viking ship Gokstad that had been excavated in 1880. The Gokstad has been called the most beautiful ship ever built.

The Viking is approximately 76 feet long, 17 feet wide, and 6.5 feet high from the bottom of the keel to the gunwale. Clinker built, its planks are fastened together with thousands of iron rivets. In 1893 the Viking sailed from Norway to Chicago, via the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes, and became one of the greatest attractions at the World’s Columbian Exposition. It could be see for many years in Lincoln Park near the zoo and has been recently declared one of ten most endangered historic sites in Illinois by “Landmarks Illinois”, a statewide historic preservation advocacy group. For more information please contact the Friends of the Viking Ship.

Lorraine explains to our guests some of the history of the ship.

Lorraine explains to our guests some of the history of the ship.

Svein enjoys studying history and very much enjoys ancient Norsk writings and literature. Lorraine Straw was our tour guide at the Viking Ship and she gave us the grand tour including a peek at some of the plans the group has for adding new interpretive signs, a loudspeaker system and a new fund raising drive to preserve the rivets that hold the ship together. Many of the artifacts from the ship are not located at the park but are instead housed at the Museum of Science and Industry. Two shields from the ship can be seen at the Norsk Museum in Norway, Illinois. (See the article on this site for more info on that museum.)

Lorraine points out repairs made to the ship.

Lorraine points out repairs made to the ship.

Side Rudder

Side Rudder

Later that evening Svein spoke of the passion that Lorraine showed for the ship and commended her spirit for the preservation effort and all of the volunteers that that put work into the site.

Each time I visit the Viking it reminds me of my childhood and the trips we took to Chicago passing the Viking in Lincoln park and my father telling us “there is your heritage, your great-great grandfathers were Vikings and those were the ships they sailed.”

Ken Nordan
Contributing Editor

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Last Friday night my wife and I were thinking of a few things to do for the following day. It had been a while since we took a road trip and because not much has been happening this summer regarding Norwegian gatherings, we decided to take a little trip to Norway. So we packed up our day bags and hopped into the car for our adventure.

Living in the Chicago area we can get to Norway or Stavanger in a couple of hours, not because we have super sonic direct flights out of O’Hare, but because Norway and Stavanger are small towns Southwest of Chicago near Ottawa Illinois. Neither place is very big but Norway does have a few interesting places to visit regarding our Norwegian Heritage.

Cleng Peerson "Sloopers" Memorial

Cleng Peerson (Sloopers) Memorial

The Norway area of Illinois became the first permanent Norwegian settlement in North America. These settlers were part of the Cleng Peerson led “Sloopers” that left Stavanger Norway on July 4, 1825 and arrived in New York on October 19th 1825. The settlers stayed for several years in Orleans County (near Rochester) in New York state before moving to the Norway area (in the Fox River valley) in 1834. Several monuments have been erected on a site south of town along highway 71. The site also includes the final resting place of Cleng Peerson’s sister Kari Nelson and others from that group.

Norsk Museum in Norway Illinois

Norsk Museum in Norway Illinois

If you go to Norway, Illinois in the summer months (June thru September) on a Saturday or Sunday (normally 1 to 5 pm) a very nice museum staffed by volunteers may be open. If you get there early check out the diner and store, we had a nice lunch and bought a few Norwegian food items there. The Norsk Museum (in the church behind the diner and store) contains artifacts from many of the families that have lived in the area around Norway. The artifacts include many pictures, dishes, clothes, painted trunks, spinning wheels and other household items and tools used on the farms in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I found myself walking around the museum pointing to things in the glass cases saying to my wife, “my grandparents had one of those” or “I remember seeing that at Tante Solvieg’s house.”

Our guides Barb and Joannie from the Cleng Peerson Sons of Norway Lodge, were decked out in their bunads and gave us a nice tour of the museum. They also baked up some lingonberry cake and a little “Norwegian” coffee. On exhibit are examples of Norwegian Rosemaling from the Illinois Norsk Rosemalers Association, as well as some prized examples of the work of Sigmund Årseth.

Norsk Museum Inside

Norsk Museum Inside

Barb and I talked a lot about how we wished that more would be done in our area regarding Norwegian language learning, culture and the preservation of our heritage. The collective knowledge about life in a Norwegian/American household must be preserved before it is lost. This museum along with Vesterheim and other private museums are a good start. We are both looking forward to another season of events at our local clubs and lodges and hope that many of you reading this article have additional items of interest to share with our Norwegian community. Our trip and visit to Norway ended with a smiling “ha det” and a wave as we got back into our car for the quick drive home.

Ken Nordan
Contributing Editor

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