Coming full circle, back to our roots

Daughters of Norway’s 2014 convention brings “sisters” together for a whirlwind of business and fun

Photo courtesy of Janna L. Armbruster The newly elected DON board. Top row left to right: Karen Bartos, Trustee; Chris Engstrom, Treasurer; Donita Zblewski, Financial Secretary; Marcia Comer, Secretary; and Kristi O’Leary, Trustee.  Bottom row left to right: Heidi Barcia, Judge; Ronna Clymens, President; and Janna Armbruster, Vice President.

Photo courtesy of Janna L. Armbruster
The newly elected DON board. Top row left to right: Karen Bartos, Trustee; Chris Engstrom, Treasurer; Donita Zblewski, Financial Secretary; Marcia Comer, Secretary; and Kristi O’Leary, Trustee. Bottom row left to right: Heidi Barcia, Judge; Ronna Clymens, President; and Janna Armbruster, Vice President.

Janna L. Armbruster
Grand Lodge Vice President

“Coming Full Circle, Back to Our Roots,” the theme for the 2014 Daughters of Norway Convention, was aptly named, since it took place in Bloomington Minnesota. Minnesota, the land where many of our Nordic ancestors arrived as immigrants, was the perfect location. Traveling to the convention, for many of our sisters, was also a time for visiting relatives. Hosted by the Minneapolis lodge Pauline Fjelde #51 and the Eva Nansen Lodge #46 from Iowa, it was well organized. 26 of the 28 lodges across America participated by sending delegates. Many lodge sisters came even if they were not delegates. The actual convention days were Friday July 18 and Saturday July 19, but these were preceded by a bus tour on Wednesday.

Three buses headed out on Wednesday morning from the Radisson Blu in Bloomington. Before our destination, the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, we stopped at Luther College, where a lunch had been prepared for us. The variety and tastiness of the buffet astounded us, especially the lefse and rommegrot. Our speaker used a power point presentation to enlighten us on the history of the college and Vesterheim.

Vesterheim, in anticipation of our visit, had put on extra docents to make our visit memorable. The museum changes its shows constantly while maintaining a wonderful permanent exhibit of Nordic Immigration to America. The museum has been organized in three sections; leaving the home country, passage to the new country, and settling the new country. The furniture that has been donated draws visitors like a magnet due to the beauty of carving and painting. A juried show of rosemaled items captured the attention of many of the DON visitors. A big surprise was one more stop on our journey. The Christ Lutheran Church in Preston Minnesota served a catered chicken dinner barbequed by the Branding Iron Supper Club. The men of the church served us graciously.

Thursday was cultural day, with lodges and vendors selling Scandinavian wares. Open to the public, one could find rosemaled items, embroidered towels, bunad costume material, jewelry, dolls, and even beautiful stainless steel tableware from Norway. During this event, lodge sisters could attend various workshops from learning to bake the kransekake wedding cake to hearing about bunad history. A reception followed in the evening for meeting and greeting. A folk dance group performed traditional Norwegian dances in costume.

Friday was the first day of meetings with delegates seated and the 2012-1014 officers presiding. These included President Heidi Barcia from Reno Nev., Vice President Mary Knutson Sullivan from Hillsboro, Ore., Secretary Marcia Comer from Coupeville, Wash., Treasurer Ronna Clymens from Banning, Calif., Financial Secretary Janna Armbruster from Fallbrook, Calif., Trustee Kristi O’Leary from Butte, Mont., Trustee Sandra Hansen from Johnston, Iowa, and Judge Ellen Hinds from Bellingham, Wash. Opening ceremonies were heralded with the parade of lodge banners. Business was interspersed with songs led by Eileen Bianchi, a very talented musician and choral leader. Friday evening, a bunad fashion show was held in the Mall of America Courtyard. A huge audience attended to see a rare gathering of probably the largest variety of original bunads from the various regions of Norway. These costumes were either made by experts, purchased in Norway, or constructed from authentic bunad kits. Rich with traditional jewelry and hand-embroidered material, costumes ranged in price from $3,000.00 to upwards of $20,000.

Saturday arrived much too fast for most of us. An early breakfast for past presidents started the day. The business meeting continued, but the layout and placement of chairs was arranged for the ritual of instituting new officers who were nominated by their respective lodges. After a break for lunch, Pastor Kristin Sundt of the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial church, ELCA led a service memory of those sisters who had passed on during the previous two years. As each name was called on our “Broken Links” list, a flower was placed in a vase. Elections were held and the new officers were installed. Officers for the 2014-2016 Grand Lodge board are President Ronna Clymens from Banning Calif., Vice President Janna Armbruster. from Fallbrook, Calif., Secretary Marcia Comer from Coupeville, Wash., Treasurer Chris Engstrom from Tacoma, Wash., Financial Secretary Donita Zblewski from Olympia, Wash., Trustee Kristi O’Leary from Butte, Mont., Trustee Karen Bartos from Granite Bay, Calif., and Judge Heidi Barcia from Reno, Nev. The latter of these is an automatic position taken by the previous president. After a speech by the new president, the meeting was adjourned.

The Saturday night banquet is always a time for a little glitter and glam with much joviality. The celebratory mood was enhanced by the Tina and Lena show. These two sparkling ladies sang up a storm and played with the audience amid much laughter. This was their second appearance at a convention. Sad to say, they will be retiring in a year and will leave a big hole in family entertainment.

This convention lived up to expectations. The setting was perfect, Minnesota’s weather couldn’t have been better, old friendships were renewed, and new ones ignited. Those who hosted this convention can now sit back and sigh over a job well done. Those who return home leave with a little sadness, as time was too short to spend with our “sisters” of whom we have become so fond. But, all lodge sisters will be looking forward to the 2016 Convention in the San Francisco Bay area, to which we were invited by a hilarious skit performed by the hosting Northern California lodges to the tune of “Wish We All Could Be California Girls.”

Until then, we vow to keep in touch by means of phone, email, Skype, and other technical wizardry.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 22, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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