|Norwegian native Tone Forunn Tveito was welcomed to Col. Heg Park in Wind Lake last week along with other members of a tour group from the Telemark region of Norway.|
Only the weather gets an ‘uff da!’
Touring Norwegians greeted and feted, American-style
Under a steamy pavilion at Col. Heg Park in Wind Lake last week, men grilled brats and burgers while dozens of guests lined up to sample potato salad, watermelon, baked beans, cookies and lemonade.
At first glance, this seemed to be a family reunion or an old-fashioned American picnic … except, after a bit of eavesdropping, all the visitors can be heard speaking Norwegian.
As guests of Bob and Donna Malsack, 42 members of a group named Telelaget are dedicated to preserving the history of people who came to America from Telemark, a mountain region of Norway.
On June 24, the Wind Lake couple paired with Marilyn Canfield, president of the Norway Historical Society, to offer the group a traditional picnic in the park dedicated to Hans Christian Heg, a Norwegian immigrant who served as a colonel and brigade commander in the Union Army during the Civil War.
According to Canfield, the Telelaget group recently arrived in the United States to attend an annual “stevne,” a time to gather with others interested in the history, culture, crafts and food of Norwegian Americans.
“Every year the stevne is held in a different place and it helps to provide connections between the Norwegians and their family living here,” she said.
“They are very interested in learning about our culture, so what is more Wisconsin than having an American picnic?”
The Wind Lake location provided opportunity for the group to view the statue of Col. Heg, visit his grave at Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery across the street and then tour the museum on the park grounds and in the basement of the old church.
The park’s museum has a new display set up in honor of the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway, who came to visit Wind Lake in June 1939, added Canfield. “They were really taken with that exhibit.”
For Harald Omnes from Lunde, Norway, the group’s ten-day excursion through Norwegian communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin was a pleasant blend of American and Norwegian culture.
“This has been an excellent trip,” he said. “We toured the Twin Cities to Northfield, saw many of our relatives, attended a program and had several dinner parties.”
While Omnes, a forester, liked the midwestern topography, friendliness, hospitality and American culture, he admitted that there had been one drawback.
“Well, some of the people are having trouble with the hot weather,” he said. “We aren’t used to that in Norway, but it doesn’t bother me – I have spent time in Africa and every day the weather was like it is today.”
A beaming Tone Forunn Tveito from Tokke, in western Telemark didn’t mind the steamy temperatures either. A 32-year-old radio broadcaster and singer, Tveito said she used any excuse to stand under our sunny skies.
“Oh it is wonderful, I sat and watched the children play games on the play equipment and I got pretty warm, but I love it, I love everything about America,” she said, adding: “I love the openness and homey-ness of the people.”
Besides locating relatives living in the Midwest from Telemark, the group traveled around by tour bus and experienced life on family farms along the way, bridging old connections and making new.
One of the most interesting Midwestern experiences for Tveito is one most Wisconsinites take for granted.
“They roasted a giant pig,” she said, stretching her arms wide. “It was on a spit and then we ate it. It was the first time I ever saw something like that and it tasted very good.”
Following their visit to Wind Lake, the group headed to Milwaukee and planned to attend a concert before returning home to Norway on June 27.