Celebrate Syttende Mai at Vesterheim Museum
Celebrate Syttende Mai, Norway’s “Constitution Day,” at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, on Saturday, May 15, with a children’s parade, Decorah’s Nordic Dancers, music and storytelling performances, gallery talks, food, and free admission to the museum all day. Syttende Mai at Vesterheim is sponsored by Jeff and Marilyn Roverud, Decorah, Iowa.
“Visitors will want to stay all day to enjoy the Norwegian storytelling performance, hear a famous trumpeter from Norway, tour the museum, march in the parade, dance, and eat Norwegian treats,” said Martha Griesheimer, Vesterheim’s Volunteer Coordinator.
The museum will celebrate Syttende Mai a little early this year to take advantage of the weekend. Syttende Mai, May 17, is the day Norway ratified its constitution in 1814 at Eidsvoll. On “Constitution Day” Norwegians like to focus on children, who will inherit both the spirit of national freedom and the Norwegian heritage and culture that are at the heart of Syttende Mai.
Norwegians traditionally celebrate Syttende Mai with a children’s parade—a crowd of excited children marching through the streets waving flags, singing songs, and bringing good cheer to the day. The Vesterheim children’s parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. The route starts on Main Street in Decorah at the Winneshiek County Courthouse, then travels north along Washington Street to Water Street, then west on Water Street to Mill Street.
Trumpeter Kai Robert Johansen, from Sarpsborg, Norway, will lead the parade along with Decorah’s Nordic Dancers, and everyone is invited to march along or cheer from the sidewalks. Norwegian flags will be provided for everyone marching.
Following the parade, there will be a dance on Mill Street near the museum led by the Nordic Dancers, with audience participation. In case of inclement weather, the parade and Nordic Dancers will be canceled, but all other activities will continue as scheduled.
Johansen, who is celebrating 40 years as a musical entertainer, will give a trumpet performance in the museum’s Bethania Church at 1:00 p.m. Johansen has recorded 57 albums and received many awards for his work as a composer and musician. He has also been host of his own children’s TV program. His concert credits include many European countries from Russia to Iceland, where his popular trumpet recordings have achieved gold record recognition.
Vesterheim is also pleased to welcome Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl to perform a Norwegian folk tale “Askelad and the Seven Silver Ducks” in the Bethania Church at 2:00 p.m. The Vecchione/Erdahl Duo are an engaging and entertaining team who present educational programs linking music and children’s literature. Combining the oboe and double bass, this will be a delightful musical re-telling of a traditional Norwegian tale that will appeal to a wide audience.
Inside the museum there will be special activities for children, including making patriotic braids, stamped note cards, and Sami hats and bridal crowns. There will be guided tours of the buildings in the museum’s Open Air Division at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
At 2:00 p.m. Laurann Gilbertson, Vesterheim’s Textile Curator, will give a gallery talk about the new exhibition, “Pieces of Self: Identity and Norwegian-American Quilts.” This exhibition of stunning quilts highlights the ways Norwegian Americans have expressed gender, family, community, religious, and ethnic identities through quiltmaking.
Syttende Mai is a great time for a sneak peek of the exhibition of student projects from the museum’s Pioneer Immersion Program, which will be on view from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The Kaffistova in the museum’s Bethania Church basement will be open for lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., serving a light lunch of varme pølse, lefse, heart waffles, and beverages.
Syttende Mai is a great time to see what’s new in the Museum Store and Folk Art Supply Shop. Selected sweaters from Dale of Norway are one-third off full price and a representative from Dale of Norway will be in the store during the celebration.
Vesterheim uses the story of Norwegian Americans to explore aspects of identity and culture common to everyone. The museum cares for over 24,000 artifacts, among which are some of the most outstanding examples of decorative and folk art to be seen in this country. Founded in 1877, Vesterheim is the oldest and most comprehensive museum in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group. This national treasure includes a main complex of 16 historic buildings in downtown Decorah and an immigrant farmstead and prairie church just outside the city.
From May 1 through Oct. 31, Vesterheim is open daily, 9 a.m. through 5 p.m., with hours extended until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. From Nov. 1 – April 30, Vesterheim is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., with hours extended until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays and is closed Monday. For more information on the museum’s exhibits, activities, and membership opportunities, consult Vesterheim’s website at vesterheim.org, call (563) 382-9681, or write to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 523 W. Water St., P.O. Box 379, Decorah, IA, 52101-0379.