Emphasis on heritage

Scandinavian festival gets roots from North Dakota prairie

The 32nd annual Norsk Høstfest might emphasize the Scandinavian heritage immigrants brought over from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and other Nordic countries, but North America’s largest Scandinavian festival got its roots right here on the North Dakota prairie.

Chester Reiten, president of Høstfest, said the festival is based on the rural sensibilities commonly found in North Dakota. The idea for this type of festival is not new, Reiten said, Høstfest just expands on what had already taken place in small towns across the prairie for decades.

“Years ago all the churches had fall bazaars, lutefisk supper, all the little towns had their things,” Reiten said. “And so the idea has always been there, but only in miniature.”

Over 30 years ago a group of second-generation Norwegians, Reiten included, went to Norway to learn more about their heritage. Unlike their parents in the first generation, who tended to shun their Scandinavian heritage, Reiten’s generation wanted to embrace it.

“We went to Norway because we were confident in our Americanism,” he said. “Our folks were a little worried you’d be too Norwegian. … We went to Norway and what we found was the traditions and the culture and heritage there was about the same as ours was, and we’re a hundred years apart.”

After getting back home, they started planning the Høstfest. Music has always been a big part of the festival, and Reiten said music is probably what kept it going in those early years.

Photo and text by Dan Feldner/MDN. Read more on Minotdailynews.com

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