By Aaron Hanson
What do you get when you mix aquavit, apricots, amd rømmegraut? The sweet concoction that was served at the banquet on Saturday evening! The same sweetness can be said of the 104th anniversary stevne of the Valdres Samband, which took place on June 19-21 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
The stevne took place at The Plaza Hotel & Suites, which served as a great meeting place. One hundred and ninety people registered fort he event.
Many people commented on how smoothly the activities flowed and on the high quality of speakers and entertainment. Much thanks goes to the Planning Committee Chairperson Doris Hayes, Paul and Jo Scheffel, and Marilyn Carlson. Much assistance was also provided by Rod Johnson of Sognefjordlaget.
Registration began on Thursday morning at 8:30, along with genealogy, memorabilia, silent auction, and arts, crafts, and book sales.
The genealogy room was well staffed this year. Our new genealogist, Be Gunelson, assisted people along with our genealogist emeritus, Betty Rockswold. Be reported that the family researchers had a wide range of experience. "There were some people who have been working for 45 years, other who have just started."
Also assisting in the genealogy room were Russ Elmore, who has created CD's of Betty Rockswold's family history charts, and Bjørn Gunnar Østgård, who is one of five epople writing the bygdebok (farm history) for North Aurdal, Valdres.
Many vendors were on hand with Scandinavian merchandise. Stephen Wills, as usual, manned the Valdres Samband Merchandise table. This year he had a new offering: spiral bound copies of reprinted newsletters published by the Valdres Samband from December 1962 through December 1969. Edited by Carl Narvestad, the newsletters informed members of the upcoming stevne (spring issue) and provided a Christmas greeting (fall issue). David Kringstad organized the reprinting.
Near the vendors' tables stood an exhibit on Waldemar Ager, the Norwegian-American enditor and author who lived in Eau Claire. The exhibit, which consisted of several panels about the Norwegian newspaper Reform and other publications. was created by the Waldemar Ager Association.
Two highlights on Thursday were the Eau Claire tour (described in a separate article) and the Get Acquainted Social. Eleanor Schultz hosted the social, which was attended by approximately 80 to 100 people. To help people get acquainted, Eleanor called out the names of the kommuner (municipalities) in Valdres, one by one, and asked people to stand if they had ties to a particular Kommune. Before people could sit down, they had to state their name and their family or farm name in Norway.
A musical highlight of the Get Acquainted Social came when Carl Franzen, a Minneapolis songwriter, sang several songs while playing an electronic keyboard. The crowd pleaser was his "Immigrant Song"; the lyrics are printed in this issue of the Budstikken. Franzen has ancestral roots at the Ranum farm in Skrautivål, Valdres.
The first seminar, titled "Eau Claire's Literary Figure: Waldemar Ager," was by Tim Hirsch, a professor emeritus fo English at US-W Eau Claire and vice president of the Waldemar Ager Association. In addition to speaking about Ager's accomplishments, Dr. Hirsch read exceprts from the newspaper Reform and Ager's books On the Way to the Melting Pot and Sons of the Old Country.
Jahn Børe Jahnsen, who spent a week traveling with a delegation from Valdres, spoke about "Strengthening Valdres-American Relations." He described a meeting with Thor S. Johansen, consul general, and Eivind J. Heiberg, fraternal director of Sons of Norway. He also described stops at Mindekirken, Ingebretsens, Aslak Olsen Lie House, Little Norway Museum, Hauge Church, Vesterheim Museum, St. Olaf College, and other places and people as well.
Betty Rockwold gave a seminar on genealogy. She provided tips based on her years of experience volunteering for the Valdres Samband. She even described how employment records, such as those of her father's at Northern States Power, can be helpful in locating ancestors.
Sue Sutherland, who oversees Bunad operatrions at Odden's Norsk Husflid in Barronett, Wisconsin, soke about "Norsk Bunader" (Norwegian National Costumers). Sue showed overheads of various styles of bunader and provided information about the costumes. She also spoke about "folk draft" (people's clothing) and the current trend to make accurate copies of what people used to wear.
Tekkla Bekkedal, professor emeritus from UW-Eau Claire, gave a seminar titled "Folktales and Story Telling." She displyaed several volumes of Norwegian folktales collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. In addition to providing tips on story telling, Dr. Bekkedal told her own version of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff."
The final seminar on Friday was "The Norway Tour 2004" presented by Linda Palmer of Borton Overseas. Linda provided handouts detailing the Fagernes stevne options as well as add-on travel possibilities. She answered many questions from the large audience.
Friday Evening Program
Russ Elmore served as emcee and entertained the audience with several "Arne and Wilbur" jokes (he said he didn't know and Ole and Lena Jokes). The program began with the singing of the national anthems, led by Howard Lerohl and accompanied by his niece, Jan Lerohl.
Several people were recognized, including Bjørn Gunnar Østgård and Amy Narvestad: June Adele Dolva was asked to stand since it was her birthday.
Howard White, Eau Claire city council president, provided a welcome to Eau Claire. Eivind Brenna, vestre Slidre mayor, provided greetings from Norway.
Eivind's wife, Elisabeth, sang two songs, including a beautiful lullaby, as Henning Andersen accompanied her on Hardanger fiddle.
Howard Lerohl led the audience in singing "O Valdres," the song given to the Valdres Samband in 1999 for its centennial celebration by Gretchen Dokken-Hellie.
The primary entertainment for the evening was "Ole and Sven," a singing and performing duo portrayed by Phil Dybdahl and Peter Narum. Both men are from Madison WI and have Valdres ancestry (Dybdahl 100%, Narum 50%).
They delighted the audience by playing humorous Norwegian-American songs, such as "Just a Little Lefse," and telling Sven and Ole jokes, including one about the "big Mall of America."
Following their performance, the audience took time for coffee, lemonade, and cookies. Eivand Brenna, noted that there was even styllo (the Valdres word for Krumkaker).
The audience was then treated to a surprise performance by the delegation from Valdres. Travel committee members included Jahn Børe Jahnsen, Bjørn Gunnar Østgård, Eivind Brenna, and Henning Andersen. Mayor Brenna's wife, Elisabeth and son, Bendik, also participated.
During the performance, Jahn Børe and Elisabeth danced a Hardanger fiddle. Henning also delighted the audience by performing on a flute that appeared to be made of willow, but was made of plastic! The Norwegians sang, and attempted to lead the audience in singing "Kan de glemme gamle Norge."
Henning also played a fiddle piece that imitated the sound of church bells. Finally, Bendik provided the high point of the evening with his Halling-style dance called lausdans (unattached dance); he twice kicked a hat off a stick held by his mother.
Saturday Morning Seminars
At 9:00 a.m. Jahn Børe Jansen began his seminar entitled "Valdres Stevne Events." The seminar focused on the accommodations, tours, and activities for the 2004 stevne in Fagernes. Jahn Børe provided brochures from Valdrs, including one of the Quality Hotel Fagernes where the stevne will take palce.
The next speaker, Karl Andresen, provided a lively telling of "The Birkebiner Story." Andresen, one of the organizers of the Wisconsin ski race, spoke about the history of the race and the challenges that organizers face every year.
The final speaker on saturday was Jan Hansen, professor emeritus of economics from UW- Eau Claire. Hansen's topic "100 Year Development of the Norwegian Economy" was illustrated through slides of charts and graphs. According to the United Nation's Human Development Index, which measures quality of health, education, and standards of living, Norway now ranks number one in the world.
Saturday Afternoon Program
Howard Kerohl led a short singin-along that included two songs "Hils fra meg der hjemme" and "Nidelven." The song list was shorter than usual so that the audience could listen to folk music played by Henning Andersen. He performed three tunes on Hardanger fiddle: two springars and a "listening tune" from Vang in Valdres.
Michael Bergan, president of the Valdres Samband, called the Business Meeting to order. Diane Lerohl gave the secretary's report. Kari Kringstad gave the treasurer's report, which was approved by Bob Skogman and Gordon Lee. Robert Lerohl read the Slate of Nominations on behalf of the nominating committee; the committee consisted of Allard Stevens, Gayle Struska, and Robert Lerohl. All officers were re-elected: Gordon Lee and Gayle Struska were elected as directors to a three-year term. Michael Bergan also announced the decision made at the morning board meeting to prepare a resolution for, and donate $1,000 to, the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America on its 20th anniversary. Diane Lerohl read the resolution.
The Memorial Service was led by retired pastor LaMoine Jacobs, who lives in Whitehall WI and is of Valdres descent. The service began with the audience singing the first verse of "Deilig er jorden" (Beautiful Savior) led by Howard Lerohl. Paster Jacobs then spoke about the stilling of storms, which is described in Psalm 107 ("...he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.") Gayle Struske read the names of the deceased. The service closed with the singing of the second verse of "Deilig er jordan."
The final activity of the afternoon was the closing of bids for the silent auction. Many people gathered in the room with tables of donated items to see if they had won.
Saturday Evening Festive Gjestebø
The Festive Gjestebø (banquet) was held in the Crystal Ballroom. Robert and Helen Lerohl greeted people as they entered. Rev. Michael Clarson, a chaplain at Luther Hospital who was attending his first stevne, gave the Norwegian Table Prayer.
The delicious meal consisted of a fresh fruit salad, herring, a relish tray, torsk, Swedish meatballs, boiled potatoes, glazed carrots, cinnamon apple rings, rolls, and lefse. For dessert, rømmegraut was served with a choice of toppings: white sugar or aquavit apricot sauce.
Michael Bergan presented certificates of appreciation to Betty Rockswold and the Planning Committee for the 2003 Stevne (Doris Hayes, Paul and Jo Scheffel, and Marilyn Carlson.) Doris Hayes presented Rod Johnson with a gift for his assistance with the stevne. Michael then presented certificates to the Norwegian delegation; he also gave Bendik a towel with the words "American Pride - Harley-Davidson Motor Cycles."
Jahn Børe Jahnsen formally presented two volumes of Norske Gardsbruk to Betty Rockswold for the Valdres Samband.
The Parade of Bunads attracted many colorfully dressed individuals who proceeded through the Crystal Ballroom and then were led by two Hardanger fiddlers, Kari Loing and Henning Andersen, to the Two Rivers Ballroom.
Saturday Evening Program
The program began with the Call of the Lur played by Howard Lerohl. Aaron Hanson, yours truly, served as emcee. Howard led the singing of the National Anthems. Bjørn Gunnar Østgård of Valdres made opening remarks.
The first performance was by Earl Evenstad, who proceeded to the stage playing a "torader," or two-row accordion.
Earl then played a waltz named "Shirley," after his wife, who danced with Jahn Børe. Several others joined them on the dance floor. Earl concluded his performance while playing and proceeded out of the ballroom.
The next performers, the Norske Folke Sangere (The Norwegian Folk Singers) were led by Ev Krigsvold. Wearing bunads or red vests with black skirts/trousers, the members processed into the ballroom singing "Ja, vi elsker dette landet." During the playing of "Per Spelmann" they danced around a fiddler. They performed several other delightful songs, included one with goat bells ringing and another about a farmer who went "ut etter øl" (out after beer). They group closed their performance by singing "God Bless America."
Leland Peterson read the Resolutions, June Adele Dolva provided a "Welcome to Fargo 2004" announcement about the stevne in America.
Doris Hayes had a surprise for Hilda Kringstad: more dancing. Jahn Børe danced with Elisabeth while Henning played the fiddle. Then Bendik repeated his athletic Halling-style dance and kicked a hat off a stick held by his mother.
In the Valdres Samband tradition, the audience sang "God bless America" to close the 2003 stevne.
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Last updated: February 24, 2018
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